By Tú Lệ
For foreign tourists and expatriates living in Việt Nam, the chaotic scenes of local traffic are quite peculiar and undoubtedly dangerous if they are stuck in the middle of it.
Undoubtedly, this complex problem, emerging from a plethora of reasons and social conditions, has a strong negative impact on the tourism industry and leaves a blemish on the national image of Viet Nam. Unless there are some solutions, the issue will only get worse.
“Only a few steps away from the quiet alley to the big road, I can already see the crossroads packed with not only motorcycles and cars, but also many examples of idiosyncratic and dangerous behaviour by people on the roads. I see people speeding crazily to cross over the yellow light or moving the vehicle very slowly on the road to wait for the green light instead of completely stopping behind the zebra line,” the 56-year-old Đặng Mai Tâm said, sharing her irritation every time she passes the crossroad back home from the morning market.
“I cannot understand why some people ignore the red light and the countdown clock when there are only some seconds left till the green light to interrupt the traffic flow in front of them. At times, some people behind me even honk crazily to force us to make way for their vehicles,” the 28-year-old Sam Watson, a Canadian expatriate living in Hà Nội commented.
Also, people are seen to stop their vehicles under the shade of the trees to have some relief from the summer heat. Even though there are almost always the dividing lines for vehicles going straight forward and the ones turning right and left, traffic from both sides is still merging and therefore, they move very slowly.
There are numerous reasons that lead to the status quo. One is the population boom and a soaring number of vehicles exceeded the capacity of the current roads and public transportation system, especially in the big cities like Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City.
Then is the low-quality traffic light system frequently breaking down only a short time after its installation or just after a mild storm. The on-the-spot disciplinary actions against the traffic law violation, which are usually at least 10 to 15 minutes long, seem ineffective because of the huge volume of traffic on the road, especially during rush hour. So when there is a traffic jam, the traffic policemen all concentrate on co-ordinating with each other to aid traffic movement and hence, loosen their traffic law supervision.
Frankly speaking, the divider lines on the streets have not made a significant contribution in accelerating the traffic flow. On some street where vehicles are allowed to turn right, there is no divider line to reserve the road space for those vehicles. This incompatibility of the traffic law and the road facilities has made the law redundant and thus, the traffic problem stagnates.
The problem of disobeying the traffic law is mostly due to poor knowledge and lack of discipline. Some cite the reasons for their behaviour as “hurry” or having some or the other urgent issue; or they did not know the rule had been updated. At times, a few such actions violating traffic laws can cause some serious consequences such as traffic jams, vehicle crashes, and even fatal accidents. The repercussions of congestion are critical, such as high pressure and damage to traffic infrastructure, air pollution, and patrol consumption being wasted, in addition to road rage.
The current status of the traffic problem seriously calls for more solutions that need implementing immediately. The traffic law system needs to be revised with the tougher disciplinary actions against anyone breaking the rules. The automatic post-violation disciplinary procedure should also be executed soon to both offset the workload of the traffic policemen on the roads and assure the absolute obedience of people to the law.
Road constructors and transportation infrastructure experts need to conduct some research before construction to divide the road width efficiently and avoid the gridlock/bottleneck issues. Signs of turning left/right and the division line to reserve the road space for those vehicles must be done at the same time to avoid any confusion of people on the streets.
“Equally important, the urban landscape design must be adjusted to serve the urban commuters. More shady trees should be grown on all streets across the cities, especially around the crossroads so that everyone feels comfortable being on the streets during the summer no matter what vehicle they are driving with,” Trần Hà Phương, a primary school teacher, suggested.
Last but not least, a continuous traffic law education programme should be implemented to equip every vehicle owner with sufficient knowledge about their roles and behaviour in ensuring traffic safety.
The programme must target people of all ages with simple pieces of information/tips/advices over a period of time. Adults should be encouraged to become the role models for kids and teenagers when participating in the traffic.
“While the violation fines must be increased as the warning for any vehicle owner, the authorities must ensure that the fines are justified and determined based on the potential consequences in order to prevent any loophole for corruption,” Nguyễn Thanh Bình, a local banking officer, added. VNS