Maintaining zero alcohol content for drivers necessary: ministry

By Son Ha   February 21, 2024 | 11:34 pm PT
The Ministry of Public Security has affirmed that due to the "unique" traffic conditions and alcohol consumption culture in Vietnam, it is necessary to maintain the policy of no driving with any amount of alcohol.

In a recent document contributing to the discussion on new contents of the draft Law on Road Traffic Safety, the ministry clearly states its stance on "preserving the regulation of zero blood alcohol content while driving."

According to the Ministry of Health, Vietnam has the second-highest consumption of alcohol and beer in Southeast Asia, ranks 10th in Asia, and 29th worldwide.

The Ministry of Public Security considers this rate "alarming."

Over 50% of murder cases, public order disturbances, rape, violations of road traffic vehicle operation regulations involve offenders who had consumed alcohol before committing the crimes, it said.

Thus, strictly controlling alcohol content helps ensure traffic safety and social order.

Moreover, the regulation of zero blood alcohol content helps drivers avoid the situation of "being pushed to drink" in a community culture where politeness often prevails, the ministry said.

If there was any permissible limit, people will keep drinking, it said.

"Alcoholic beverages are addictive, and once started, it is not easy to stop. Once intoxicated, it becomes difficult to remember what the laws stipulate," the ministry's document states.

The ministry noted that a part of drivers in Vietnam does not have high awareness in obeying traffic law and some of them even violated the rules on purpose or challenged law enforcement.

Such behaviors can "take the lives of many," hence the need for strict laws.

Police stop a motorcyclist in HCMCs Go Vap District to test the alcohol level in his breath, December 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van

Police stop a motorcyclist in HCMC's Go Vap District to test the alcohol level in his breath, December 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van

In addition, traffic conditions in Vietnam are different from those in developed countries, where cars travel in lanes and at distances appropriate to their speed, allowing drivers about 0.5 seconds to recognize an emergency situation and another 0.5 seconds to react.

Thus, when a driver violates the law and causes an accident, the chance of multi-vehicle collision would be reduced.

For Vietnam to achieve that, cars traveling at 40 kph should maintain a distance of over 22 meters between them, which is "unimaginable in Vietnam," where vehicles are only a few meters apart at 40 kph.

"Traffic on the roads in Vietnam requires drivers to maintain alertness and quicker reflexes many times over in case of sudden situations," the ministry assesses.

According to official data from the ministry, from June 2022 to December 2023, 20% of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents were related to driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

From 2018 to 2023, there were 2.74 million emergency visits and treatments in hospitals due to road traffic accidents, with over 425,000 instances related to DUI.

The ministry says that controlling DUI violations among drivers is proving very effective.

In 2023, traffic accidents related to DUI decreased by 25% in incidents, 50% in deaths, and 22% in injuries compared to 2022.

The number of people hospitalized for traffic accidents this Tet reduced by 12% from the same period last year, with major hospitals recording a notable drop of patients under the influence of alcohol.

Over 23,000 people were hospitalized due to traffic-related incidents this Lunar New Year holiday between Feb. 8-14, a drop of 12.1% from the same period last year, according to reports from the Ministry of Health.

For these reasons, the Ministry of Public Security believes it is necessary to continue the regulations of the Law on Prevention and Control of Harms of Liquor and Beer Abuse by absolutely prohibiting people from having any amount of alcohol when driving.

DUI penalties can include a fine of up to VND40 million (US$1,640) and a two-year license suspension, while those who cause accidents while intoxicated can face criminal charges.

The government and traffic authorities have for several months now enforced the DUI checks more rigorously than ever.

In November 2023, when the National Assembly discussed the draft Road Traffic Safety and Order Law, the regulation punishing drivers with any blood alcohol content provoked mixed opinions.

Many representatives felt that the current absolute ban on driving with any alcohol level was not suitable and suggested designing limits for imposing fines.

These members recommended referencing international experience and setting appropriate blood alcohol levels for each type of vehicle; ensuring consistency with the Criminal Code's regulations.

The draft Road Traffic Safety and Order Law is expected to be considered for approval by the National Assembly in the mid-2024 session.

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