Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers about the use of dummy traffic cops in Viet Nam and their effectiveness in increasing respect for Vietnamese traffic laws. Here are some of the replies:
Bui Thi Kim Thuy, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I believe that using dummy cops is a good solution in the short-term, but in the long-run, this may be ineffective.
First, dummy cops keep roads safer. They serve as a reminder for speeders to slow down and drive in the right lanes. As far as I know, traffic violations have dropped since the idea was put into practice.
Second, the idea is cheap and labour-saving as dummy cops work hard day and night - and don't have to be paid! With this technique, we can artificially increase the police presence on roads where accidents are frequent.
The dummy cops demonstrate efforts by the authorities' efforts to solve high accident rates and encourages residents, policy-makers as well as other cities to come up with new ideas to address the issue.
Moreover, it helps raise local people's awareness about road traffic safety and I believe that educating people is one of the best ways to reduce road accidents.
However, when people become familiar with dummy cops, the technique may become ineffective, especially when the information about where the dummy cops are placed begins to circulate on social networks.
The technique can work as long as they regularly change the locations where the cut-outs are placed. Another alternative is to put the dummy cops into real police cars so that people cannot see them clearly, which means drivers cannot be sure if they are dummy cops or real ones.
Russel Dann, Australian, Ha Noi
In two years in Viet Nam, I have noticed quite a few people follow the road rules, but some of the stuff I have seen is shocking: children without helmets, people going through a red light in summer so they don't have to go "black" sitting in the sun for a few seconds.
In Australia, they rarely use dummy cops. However, red-light cameras do an even better job. They take a photo of your number plate as you pass through a red light.
I cannot say if the widespread use of dummy traffic cops would work. I have seen people riding with no helmets or on mobile phones as they go through red lights in front of traffic cops, and, like the dummy cops, they do nothing!
On the other hand, I have seen someone pulled aside for going slightly over the white line. If people do not respect real cops, they will not care for dummy ones.
The best thing would be to move the dummy cops at times and swap them with real cops. Thus, many drivers who became used to dummy police would be caught.
Pham Hoai Nam, Vietnamese, New Zealand
I have been living in New Zealand and Australia, and I have never heard of dummy cops. It's total nonsense!
Traffic police work hard in these two countries. They patrol the roads every hour night and day in both rural and mountainous areas. Thus, people are much more awar of obeying the law.
I have been fined once for speeding in New Zealand. The cost was $150, which is not a big sum, but it reminded me of the traffic rules. I have now installed an application that will give a warning when the car is driving faster than allowed.
On Friday nights and weekends, police are mobilised along the roads to university dormitories to crack down on drunk driving. Thus, students usually hire taxis instead.
I believe that the main task of traffic police is to assure traffic flow and the safety of road users, not catching violators or handing out tickets. If my car is broken down, they will stop and ask if I need help – that's what I count most.
Tracy Walker, Australian, City of Perth
In my country, speed cameras and red light cameras are set up on the side of the roads. It's a bit like your dummy cops. If you see a flash, you know you will get a fine in the post.
This is totally effective as everyone has their vehicles registered. Computer installed in police cars take photos of vehicle number plates.
This immediately tells police who owns the car, if their licences are current, their addresses and even how many fines they've had.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
As they say, there's never a cop around when you need one. The only good thing about these dummy cardboard police is that they can't take bribes.
I believe dummy cops are a silly idea and no more effective than a scarecrow in a cornfield. Much better to install red-light traffic cameras that take a picture of offenders and mail out a fine to the registered owner, just like in Canada. This is a cash cow for government.
If you don't speed, you don't get a ticket. Many accidents occur with speed as a contributing factor. But having a police dummy is a failed idea from the start.
It reminds me of the Aesop's Fable of the Fox and the Lion. The first time the fox sees the lion, he slinks away in fear. Next time he pauses and looks. Finally, he walks up casually and starts talking.
Moral is that familiarity breeds contempt. I should not be afraid of police, nor should they be my friends. Respect works both ways. — VNS