Scene of a traffic accident in HCM City. — Photo tin247.com
I’m proud of being Vietnamese for many reasons.
For the hard-fought independence my country had gained, for the prosperity it has achieved and its inspiring culture.
But at the same time, I’m ashamed and angry at one ugly habit of many Vietnamese people: binge drinking.
On May 1, two street cleaners named Đinh Hải Yến and Trần Thị Quỳnh were hit by a car while riding a motorbike in the Kim Liên Tunnel in Hà Nội. Yến and Quỳnh didn’t make it back to their kids.
One of the children, Yến’s son, had autism. Yến’s husband is seriously ill, and she was her family's rock. Now she’s gone, forever.
A week before that incident, a female worker of the Hanoi Urban Environment Company was hit by a car when she was working on the street. She died on the spot.
The scripts were the same for both tragedies: the cars were driven by drunken people. Đỗ Xuân Tuyến, who crashed into the female street sweeper, was even too drunk to talk with police the next morning.
These scenes might break your heart: the poor female worker lying unconscious in a pool of blood at midnight, her co-workers crying next to her, and her sons’ tears falling at her funeral. The sense of loss over these deaths is almost indescribable, made worse by the fact that their killers were drunken and should not have been driving.
I hate that once many Vietnamese men sit down for a drink with friends, they are forced to down their drinks to show their “respect” to their drinking buddies or to show that they are “true men”.
I hate that many drivers take to the wheel even after they have drank without thinking about the consequences. I hate that these drunken people want to show their respect to their friends, their bosses, their partners, but are not able to show care for their own and others’ lives by paying a few dollars to get a taxi home after drinking.
Most of all, I hate the fact that people have to drink until they’re drunk.
Since these incidents, Facebook users from across the country have been adding photo frames to their profile pictures with messages condemning drunk drivers, like “Drunk driving is a crime” and “When You Drink, Don’t Drive”. Though many people hate the direction Việt Nam's drinking culture had headed, nothing has been done about it.
Tougher laws needed
Changing your Facebook picture may be well intentioned, but it isn’t enough. Stricter regulations need to be put in place if we want to see less of these tragedies.
According to a study by the Ministry of Health at the Việt ĐỨc Hospital and the Hà Nội Medical University Hospital on 100 people who died from alcohol-related traffic accidents, 82 of them had blood-alcohol level higher than 50mg/100ml, the legally allowed limit for driving.
The health ministry suggested the limit should be adjusted to only 30mg/100ml. If the level is higher than 80mg/100ml, the drivers should be objected to compulsory public labour or heavy penalties, the ministry said.
It’s worth looking at what other countries have done to tackle drink driving, like increasing tax on alcohol sales, applying heavy punishments on drink drivers and even tougher punishments on drink drivers who cause accidents.
In Massachusetts, US, first-time offenders of drunk driving laws face imprisonment for up to two and one-half years, a fine of $500 to $5,000, or both.
In April this year, the Thai government ordered police to charge drink-driving motorists that cause fatal accidents during the Songkran holiday with premeditated murder to curb preventable deaths.
Somchai Werotepipat was the first person to face charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with drink driving after he rammed his car into another car carrying three family members. The dad, who was driving the car, was killed instantly. His wife succumbed to her wounds later and the daughter sustained serious injuries including a brain haemorrhage.
Việt Nam’s law currently only applies a maximum punishment of 10 years if a drunk driver kills two people. Many lawyers have said this regulation is not a strong enough deterrent to avoid deadly accidents.
I’m not a Christian, but I’ve read that the Bible says Satan is always attempting to shatter people’s lives by any means possible and liquor is his strongest weapon. Let us not be victims of false values, a lack of character, drunkenness, or murder. And because we’re living in a country that says it upholds the rule of law, we have to let the law deal with what it must. — VNS