Hanoi, Saigon residents toast tougher DUI law

By Pham Nga, Trang Diep   January 14, 2020 | 05:13 pm PT
Hanoi, Saigon residents toast tougher DUI law
Restaurant tables and chairs invade public sidewalks on Ta Hien Street, Hanoi's Old Quarter, on January 13, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.
Homeowners near beer clubs in Saigon and Hanoi said  living conditions have greatly improved on the heels of new drunk driving penalties.

Bac, a resident on 100-metre-long Ta Hien Street, home to a plethora of clubs and bars in Hanoi's Old Quarter, said her family’s been liberated from the smell of urine and vomit since the beginning of the year.

"Decree 100 saved my family much torment," she confirmed.

The decree on preventing alcohol's harmful effects, which took effect on January 1, imposes stiff penalties for drunk driving. Cyclists and electric bicycle riders face fines of VND400,000-600,000 ($17-26) for drunk cycling.

Motorcyclists and car drivers can be fined up to VND6-8 million and VND30-40 million ($1,300-1,725), double the old levels, and the car driver could have their driving license suspended for 22-24 months.

The retired police officer said she’s even witnessed drunks defecate in front of her house. "Since I can't talk sense into drunkards, I have no choice but to clean up after them."

Other local residents have also suffered from high noise levels and people swearing. In addition, motorbikes as well as restaurant tables and chairs have invaded public sidewalks.

"Every time a restaurant turns up its speakers to advertise beer or wine, I have to take my 90-year-old mother-in-law to a friend's house on Minh Khai Street. The glass doors in our home cracked because of the loud noise," she added.

For the past two weeks, the number of visitors to Ta Hien has significantly dropped. The sidewalk near Bac's house is no longer occupied by motorcycles and furniture. 

Now, she hopes a new law could permanently "shut down the sidewalk clubs and bars."

Nguyen Lan, 46, residing on Ma May Street about 100 meters away, said: "Located on a hidden corner, drunks often pee near my house. Some would even bang on the front door, making a very loud noise."

Since the beginning of 2019, Lan's family has been enjoying a more peaceful living environment.

"I can feel the air is fresher when I open the door in the morning. It would be great if things can remain like this," he said.

Binh, 60, from Vong Village in Cau Giay District, said her 22-month-old grandson is one of many affected by the noise.

"Every day, when I’m about to have dinner, I would hear the phrase 'zo, zo' (Vietnamese for bottoms up), which would wake the baby. So, I have to hold my grandchild to stop him from being startled," explained Binh, who originally from central Thanh Hoa Province, moved to the capital to look after her grandchild over a year ago.

Many come here to drink beer at noon, with the reverb of karaoke echoing through her 50-meter-square apartment at night. The loud noise places much pressure on the family even though the doors are kept closed.

But thanks to tough action by law enforcement officers, the noise has drastically decreased and karaoke sessions no longer last until midnight. "Fortunately, neighborhood is calmer than before," Binh said.

More than a month ago, Hoang Hien, 30, an elementary school teacher in Hoang Mai District was told by her father one night: "Your drunk husband is lying outside near the dam."

Hien was very upset but still had to call her younger brother to help carry her husband back home.  Though the managed to put him to bed, Hien had to spend the night cleaning a "battlefield" of vomit.

Her husband often gets drunk five times a month.

When the new decree came into effect, her husband said he would stop drinking to avoid paying skyrocketing taxi fares, and for others to see him intoxicated outside the office.

Her husband has stopped drinking for nearly half a month now, with their relationship much improved.

"The penalty is still weak and I think it should be tougher since it would benefit many families," Hien noted.

Nguyen Van Thanh, a resident of Saigon's Go Vap District residing on Le Duc Tho Street, has also dropped the habit of inviting friends and neighbors over to drink beer and hold karaoke sessions every few days. Now, they come over, chill out and enjoy regular conversations.

"People do not know how badly they sing once they are drunk," he recalled.

According to locals in Thu Duc District, Hoang Dieu 2 Street is famous for its clubs and bars. During weekends, staff would set up chairs and tables on street corners to serve a stream of customers, resulting in congested traffic flow.

But the number of those who come to drink alcohol have dropped by over 60 percent since the new decree was introduced.

Tran Van Cham, a resident on Hoang Dieu 2, said he now feels comfortable when entering or exiting the alley since his neighborhood no longer chokes on traffic jams.

"Such an effective decree. I wish it was issued a bit sooner," Cham said.

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