Drunk driving is not a mistake, it’s a crime

October 25, 2018 - 09:00

There is no doubt that drunk driving is a killer disease. Drunk drivers kill themselves and kill others.

Checking driver’s alcohol level on Hà Nội-Bắc Giang Expressway. - VNA/VNS Photo Diệp Trương
Viet Nam News

Khánh Dương

There is no doubt that drunk driving is a killer disease. Drunk drivers kill themselves and kill others.

The driver of a four-seat BMW car ran out of control on streets of HCM City last week and crashed into several motorbikes and a taxi waiting at a red light at Hàng Xanh intersection in Bình Thạnh District. One motorbike driver was killed on the spot after being trapped under the car and dragged along the street. Five others were injured. One is in critical condition at the moment with brain damage.

The female driver behind the wheel, Nguyễn Thị Nga, confessed to police she had been drinking at her restaurant. While driving home, she could not control her speed. Her alcohol level was identified at 0.94 mg per litre of breath, making her drunk.

Bình Thạnh District police yesterday launched legal proceedings and temporarily detained Nga.  Lawyers said Nga faces three to 10 years in jail, in addition to compensating the victims.

Drunk driving is the leading cause of traffic accidents in Việt Nam. The number of drunk drivers is not likely to stop climbing.

A survey recently conducted by National Traffic Safety Committee and World Health Organisation in 10 provinces and cities of Việt Nam found 40 per cent of traffic accidents were caused by drunk drivers.

In the first three months of this year, 70 per cent of drivers in traffic accidents had excessive alcohol levels, according to the committee.

Innocent people have been the victims of drunk drinking as well as the drinkers. Many drinkers have also killed themselves.

Drunk drinking is so dangerous that the consequences it might cause can not be predicted.

Doctor Huỳnh Thanh Hiển from HCM City’s Mental Illness Hospital said alcohol slows down people’s reactions. At 50km per hour, if a driver is a second slower to hit the brakes, the car will drive an additional 13.8m.

Drinking while driving is evil but the evil doers in many cases repeat the crime because of light punishments that are not always even imposed in Viet Nam.

For those who are drunk but do not cause accidents, the punishment is only a fine ranging from VNĐ2 million (US$87) to VNĐ18 million ($783) depending on the level of alcohol in their breath, in addition to their driving licence being revoked for one to six months.

Khuất Việt Hùng, vice chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, admitted that despite regulations on punishments for drunk drivers, the prevention of the crime had been inefficient.

In other countries, any small amount of alcohol in the breath is enough to imprison drivers.

A sentence of one to 60 days is given to drivers in the US with 0.25 to 0.4 mg per litre of alcohol in their breath, in addition to losing their driving licence for up to six months.

Drivers in Australia face a jail term of nine to 12 months if they have more than 0.7 mg of alcohol per litre of breath.

Thailand educates drunk drivers by taking them to the morgue where they can see the coffins they or their victims may end up in.

Those caught drunk driving also have to take care of traffic accident victims at hospitals or do community service in Thailand.

Busan City of South Korea witnessed a similar accident as HCM City did last week. A soldier was left brain dead due to a crash caused by an inebriated driver. Some 270,000 people signed an online petition on a website urging the government to take stern action against drunk driving.

The government vowed to impose heavy punishment for drunk driving. When repeat drunk driving offenders are caught, prosecutors will now detain them to hold an investigation and seek the maximum penalty against drunk drivers who cause traffic accidents involving serious injuries or deaths.

Malaysia has recently proposed banning drunk drivers who cause fatal accidents from driving forever instead of only three years as currently.

Due to public outcry over innocent drunk drinking victims including children, more than 10 years ago, Japan spelled out punishment for people who provide alcohol and vehicles to drunken drivers, and those who ride with a driver who they know has been drinking, including jail time or fines.

The regulation which hands over responsibility to everyone involved might work for Việt Nam.

Many countries have taken tough actions against drunk driving, why not Việt Nam?

Drunk driving, whether an accident occurs or not, must be criminalised so there are no excuses for rule breakers and we can prevent further consequences that lead to death of drivers themselves and innocent people because as the saying goes The driver is safer when the roads are dry; the roads are safer when the driver is dry.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in may have put it best when he said "Drunk driving is not an accident ― it could be an act of murder or destroying a person’s entire life.

"We need to end the culture that regards drunk driving as a mistake." - VNS