|A traffic police officer checks the alcohol concentration of a driver in Tràng Thi Street in Hà Nội on January 23. — VNA/VNS Photo Phạm Kiên|
HÀ NỘI — In a bid to reduce the number of drunk drivers and traffic accidents, experts are calling for a revamp of the current punishment system for those caught driving under the influence, as police report a near 600 per cent increase in the number of people caught drink driving over the Lunar New Year.
In particular, experts are calling for stricter punishments for drivers exceeding 0.4mg per litre of breath or 80mg in 100ml of blood.
Currently, Decree No. 100/2019/NĐ-CP only stipulates three levels of punishment for drunk drivers; below 0.25mg per litre of breath; 0.25-0.4mg per litre of breath; and above 0.4mg per litre of breath.
It means that anyone with an alcohol concentration level exceeding 0.4mg in one litre of breath share the same penalty, no matter how high the alcohol concentration is.
The maximum punishment for car drivers with alcohol concentration levels exceeding 0.4mg per litre of breath, or 80mg in 100ml of blood, is a fine of VNĐ40 million (US$1,693) and a two-year suspension of their driving licences.
Drunk motorbike drivers with alcohol concentration levels exceeding 0.4mg in one litre of breath or 80mg in 100ml of blood will face a maximum penalty of VNĐ8 million ($338) and a two-year suspension of their driving licences.
Those who ride bicycles with alcohol concentration levels exceeding 0.4mg in one litre of breath or 80mg in 100ml of blood are subject to a maximum fine of VNĐ600,000 ($25).
PhD Lê Thu Huyền of the Hà Nội-based University of Transport told Zing online newspaper that it is necessary to diversify forms of punishments to increase deterrence for violators.
There must be more penalties for drivers with alcohol concentration levels of 0.4-0.8mg per litre of breath, 0.8-1.2mg in one litre of breath, and more than 1.2mg in one litre of breath, she said.
“We should not let people who drink four glasses of beer have the same penalty as those who drink 40 glasses of beer,” she added.
If a drunk driver is found to have a very high alcohol concentration, although the drunk driver has yet to cause any consequence, she said, a prison sentence still should be considered to be imposed.
She said that reducing the number of drunk drivers would help reduce the number of traffic accidents and deaths by 5-15 per cent.
According to Huyền, the number of traffic accidents related to alcohol in Việt Nam currently accounts for about 36 per cent of all accidents, while the number is about 11-25 per cent worldwide.
Lawyer Nguyễn Văn Chiến, a former member of the Nation Assembly’s Committee for Judicial Affairs and deputy chairman of the Việt Nam Bar Federation, said that grouping drunk drivers who have alcohol concentration exceeding 0.4mg in one litre of breath into the same fine level is not enough of a deterrent.
Therefore, there is a need for a heavier punishment mechanism to deter violators while the revised Law on Handling of Administrative Violations has allowed the maximum fine for individuals violating road-traffic regulations to be up to VNĐ75 million ($3,175), he said.
Associate Professor Vũ Anh Tuấn, director of the Việt Đức Transport Research Centre under the Việt Nam – German University, said in addition to administrative fines, drunk drivers should have community service imposed as a punishment, or driving under the influence of alcohol should be criminalised.
|A traffic police officer in northern Lạng Sơn Province speaks to a driver accused of being over the alcohol limit. — VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuấn|
He noted that in other countries, the violation level from 0.6mg to 0.8mg in one litre of breath or more is enough for criminal handling.
Drunk drivers, who are found to have an alcohol concentration from 0.6mg to 0.8mg in one litre of breath or more, are believed to be a great danger to the community because they are not sober enough to perceive and handle the situation when driving, he said.
"It is easy for drunk drivers to spend tens of millions of đồng to pay fines if they violate regulations on alcohol concentration. However, if they face a jail sentence for violating regulations on alcohol concentration, they will be more cautious," he said.
Tuấn said in addition to amendments of legal documents and the increase of sanctions to deter violators, it is imperative to issue solutions to raise public awareness of traffic culture for each individual and the community.
For exemple, restaurant owners must remind customers not to drive after drinking alcohol, he said.
If the restaurant owners let drunk customers drive, it means that they have not fully fulfilled their social responsibility, he added.
Violations increase nearly 600 per cent
The Traffic Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security revealed that during the seven holidays of the 2023 Tết (Lunar New Year), from January 20 to 26, the traffic police force nationwide handled 7,726 alcohol concentration violations.
This number is 598 per cent higher than the last Tết, the department said.
The department said the number of violation cases in this Tết is much higher than the last Tết because the country returns to normal activities after the COVID-19 pandemic has been basically controlled, the department said.
Senior Colonel Phạm Quang Huy, deputy director of the department, said that the handling of alcohol concentration violations was implemented by the traffic police force nationwide on many roads through New Year's Eve and being carried out on all time frame during the Tết holidays.
Lieutenant Colonel Đinh Ngọc Đạo, deputy head of the Traffic Police Team No. 1 under Hà Nội City Police Department, said that all violations of high or low alcohol concentrations were seriously fined.
According to the ministry’s traffic police department, the time before, during, after Tết, as well as the early spring festivals, is the time that the violations of alcohol concentration increase.
The traffic police force has taken drastic measures to ensure traffic order and safety during the time, focusing on dealing with alcohol concentration violations, said Colonel Nguyễn Quang Nhật, head of the Office of Dissemination, Investigation and Settlement of Traffic Accidents under the traffic police department. — VNS