Drunk-driving fines curb karaoke singing

By Phan Diep   January 20, 2020 | 11:57 pm PT
Drunk-driving fines curb karaoke singing
Two man sing karaoke via a set of portable loudspeaker and wireless bluetooth microphone at their home in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Diep.
In an effect of higher drunk driving fines, people are staying away from karaoke singing, giving hurt eardrums a welcome respite.

Two weeks of bliss.

For more than two weeks now, An has not sought shelter from noise for her three-months-old son. "Without the new regulations on drunk driving, I might have suffered depression by now."

A year ago, her neighbor built an apartment complex for rent, and it triggered an apparently endless succession of parties, which invariably involved drinking and singing.

The singing was raucous enough, but amplified by an easily and cheaply available karaoke set consisting of a portable loudspeaker and wireless microphone, it became an unbearable cacophony.

"A karaoke session is an indispensable part of every drinking session. They always set the volume at maximum and we would hear their singing so loudly even hundreds of meters away."

It got to a point where she would be all tensed up every afternoon, wondering if another party would break out.

Typically, a party started at around 6 p.m. and the more the participants drank, the louder they’d sing. And around 8 p.m. when her baby needed to sleep, the speaker would be blasting at full volume.

"Because of the noise, my baby could not sleep well. He would get startled and cry repeatedly," An said.

"I would ask them to keep the volume down, and they would all agree when they were still sober. However, once they began drinking, things would go back to ‘normal’", said Tam, An’s husband.

For months, the couple dealt with the noise by taking their baby out for dinner and to shopping malls until 10 p.m. each time they saw preparations for a party.

The high fines for drunk driving have come as a boon for An’s family. And it has been awesome for more than two weeks now. Her baby son can now sleep like an angel, easing some of the parental pressures on the couple.

Taking effect on January 1, a decree on fines for drunk driving has forced many habitual drinkers to abstain, bringing sales of restaurants and beer clubs down by up to 50 percent in many instances.

Under the new decree, any driver with alcohol on his or her breath faces fines of VND400,000-600,000 ($17-26) if caught driving bicycles or electric motorbikes. For motorcyclists drivers, the fines are VND6-8 million, and cars, VND30-40 million. All drivers could have their licenses revoked for 22-24 months.

Not much fun

As he lives by himself, Trung, a construction worker in Saigon's District 9 is prone to inviting friends home for drinking and singing sessions.

But for more than a week now, he has not been able to host such parties because his friends are afraid of the fines they could face when driving back home.

"Two days ago, I bought some beer to drink by myself. There was no one else, so I just wrapped it up after singing three songs by myself and went to bed early," Trung said.

Tinh, owner of a tailor shop in Tan Phu District, says he misses the time when he and his friends would gather to drink, eat and sing (karaoke). He and his wife would throw a party every year to say goodbye to the old lunar year, but this year, friends were not willing to come.

"They told me that in case they are caught driving under the influence, would I reimburse the fines they have to pay? I did not have the courage to ask them to come over.

"Without drinking, who can be keen on singing?" Tinh said, looking wistfully at the karaoke set he had spent more than VND10 million (more than $430) on just for the New Year party.

Bay’s house on Kha Van Can Street in Thu Duc District falls between two pubs. For years, Bay, 65, and his family have had to suffer the noise coming from the pubs, especially the karaoke singing, which Bay described as "torture."

"There are people who get way too drunk to talk, but they keep singing four-five songs constantly. If only they could sing well, it would be more bearable."

In recent weeks, however, Bay and his family haven’t had to yell at each other to make themselves heard. The two pubs aren’t able to attract as many customers as before and the karaoke singing has died down.

"Who would have thought that the new law on drunk-driving could also kill the karaoke noise," he said, smiling.

Ha, the owner of a sidewalk pub near Bay’s house, said that these days, no one was interested in singing karaoke anymore.

They just come for a few beers and leave early. "Some of my loyal customers not dropped by for days," she said.

On Bui Vien Street in Saigon, once a backpacker haunt and now a highly popular rendezvous for local youth as well, Thanh, owner of a painting shop, said: "The noise from karaoke singing through portable loudspeakers is nothing compared to the loud music from bars and pubs."

After living for more than 20 years on a street with numerous bars and pubs operating overnight, Thanh is all too familiar with different types of noise.

For several years now, bars along these streets have been competing against each other in cranking up the volume.

The noise has hit his ears so hard that he even had to take medicines for two months to deal with the resultant headaches.

Up above the painting shop where he lives with his wife and children, normal life was possible only during day time.

"Once the music is on, the door would shake like this," Thanh said, shaking the door violently to demonstrate.

After the decree kicked in, most pubs and bars have lost customers and as a result, they have had to lower the volume of their music, too.

Thanh said: "Now that the new regulation on drunk-driving fines has proven effective, we should also have a law with stiff penalties for noise pollution for our protection."

go to top