6 in every 1,000 Vietnamese drivers are on the phone: survey

By Doan Loan   January 16, 2018 | 10:49 pm PT
6 in every 1,000 Vietnamese drivers are on the phone: survey
A passenger bus driver talks on the phone while driving in Vietnam, as shown in a video shared on social media.
The habit can increase the risk of collision by up to 20 times, but that doesn't seem to bother many reckless drivers.

People who use their phones while driving can pay a fine of up to $35 for the offence in Vietnam, but that has not been enough to convince many to hang up the dangerous habit, a survey has found.

Six in every 1,000 drivers in Vietnam are on the phone, either texting or talking with the device pressed against their ears, according the survey by the Vietnamese-German Transport Research Center at the Vietnamese-German University based in Binh Duong Province.

The survey, presented at a Tuesday meeting held by the National Traffic Safety Committee, was conducted at nine places in Binh Duong and Saigon last year, and spotted 210,000 people using their phones while driving.

Car and truck drivers were the worst offenders, while 80 percent of all violators were men, the survey found.

More than half of the drivers caught using their phones said they continued driving normally because they felt confident they were in control.

Vu Anh Tuan, director of the research center, said that using the phone while driving can increase the risk of road crashes by three times for cars and 20 times for motorbikes. The risk is 8.5 times higher when drivers are physically holding the phone and five times higher when when they're using handsfree mode, he said.

Vietnam fines drivers caught using their phones VND600,000 ($26) to VND800,000 ($35), and added car and truck drivers to motorcyclists on the list of offenders at the beginning of 2017, but that does not seem to have helped.

This video shared last July shows a driver glued to his cellphone while driving a bus full of passengers along an expressway in northern Vietnam.

Transport officials admitted that the habit is “very common” in Vietnam.

Khuat Viet Hung, vice chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said at the meeting that the behavior “directly affects” road safety. He said the study will be used to improve the legal framework regarding the violation.

Tuan’s study is possibly one of the first about the use of phones on the road in Vietnam, a habit that has been defined as one of the five top causes of road crashes in the world.

“Using a cellphone while driving is definitely a major road hazard in Vietnam,” Greig Craft, the founder of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF), a U.S. non-profit organization that seeks to reduce traffic crash injuries and fatalities in developing countries through public education campaigns, said in a past interview.

“But many people are not yet aware of the extreme danger they are placing themselves and others in when they indulge in this behavior,” Craft said.

In October 2014, Nguyen Trung Hieu killed a family of three when his truck crashed into their motorbike. The father and his three-year-old son were crushed, while the mother succumbed to critical injuries en route to hospital. Police in the central province of Nghe An, where the accident happened, later said Hieu had been talking on his cellphone.

Data from Google showed that more than half of Vietnam's population own a cellphone, and that's projected to eight in 10 by 2020.

At the same time, road crashes remain one of the biggest causes of deaths in the country, killing one person every hour on average.

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