Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — On May 31 there was a deadly accident in Hà Nội’s Bắc Từ Liêm. It happened because a truck driver was talking on his phone while driving and ran into a motorbike killing a pregnant woman and her four-year-old child on the spot.
Speaking or texting while driving or riding motorbikes is a common sight in Việt Nam.
While official figures are not available on the direct links between this behaviour and accidents, Uông Việt Dũng, deputy chief of the National Traffic Safety Committee’s secretariat, said such drivers are many times more likely to cause an accident as people not using phones.
Nguyễn Ngọc Tường, deputy chief of the HCM City Traffic Safety Committee, speaking at the launch of the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation’s ’Leave Your Phone Alone, or You Could Be Next’ campaign, said, “90 per cent of traffic accidents are caused of drivers’ low awareness.”
Low awareness includes using a mobile phone while driving, he said.
“Only 6 per cent of people hearing their phone ring stop in a safe area on the street, 31 per cent drive in an inside lane and the rest keep talking in the lane they drive.”
A car driver speaking on a mobile phone is three or four times more likely to be involved in a road crash than one who is not, and the risk increases to 20.3 times for motorbike drivers, he said.
They fail to concentrate and reduce their visual scanning of the road ahead, he said.
The AIP Foundation’s survey of 1,543 students at 10 universities in HCM City and Hà Nội found that for 71 per cent distracted driving behaviours are normal, not very dangerous or not dangerous at all.
Bùi Thị Thúy Hồng of the HCM City University of Economics said: “I see many people including youngsters use mobile phones while driving. I am fearful when driving behind or near these people because the risk of accidents to them and me. I often drive slowly to keep a safe distance from them.”
Dũng said, “Mobile phone use while driving is a pervasive traffic violation.”
There are fines for this but no official figures for the incidence, he said.
Violators are fined VNĐ50,000-800,000 (US$2-34) and have their licence suspended for two to four months.
If a violator causes an accident, they will face criminal charges, Dũng said.
“If we do not address this problem, road accidents because of mobile phone use will increase drastically. An alarming 82 per cent of students [in the survey] responded that they have used a mobile phone while driving a motorcycle within the last six months.”
The committee is collaborating with other agencies and domestic and foreign organisations to enhance education and communication programmes to raise public awareness, especially among young people and bus and truck drivers, whose vehicles claim many lives on the road, he said.
AIP’s Safety Delivered program, for instance, includes unique youth-driven public awareness strategies, which give student ambassadors the tools to teach their family and peers about the dangers of using the phone while driving, he added.
With sponsorship from the UPS Foundation and in collaboration with the National Traffic Safety Committee and Ministry of Education and Training, the programme works with young, inexperienced motorcycle drivers to improve their distracted driving behaviours.
Mirjam Sidik, the CEO of AIP Foundations said the Safety Delivered program also aims to increase the use of helmets for children through distribution of quality motorcycle helmets and education.
The programme is also being carried out in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand.
On Saturday a parade of 100 motorcycles ridden by students from the University of Economics and UPS volunteers was organised in HCM City to raise awareness of not using mobile phones while driving.
The event started with road safety games, stage performances and a pledge from students and participants to abstain from mobile phone use while driving.—VNS