'No-hands' bus driver caught on camera using cellphone on high-speed Vietnam expressway

By Doan Loan   August 2, 2017 | 02:45 pm GMT+7

The man, flagged for a 'serious' violation, has been suspended and faces a fine of up to $35.

A driver from Lao Cai Province in northern Vietnam is in hot water after an online video was posted showing him glued to his cellphone while driving a bus full of passengers along an expressway.

The National Traffic Safety Committee on Tuesday asked the province's transport department to strictly punish the man, saying it was a “serious” violation of traffic regulations and showed disregard for passengers' lives.

The transport company said it has suspended the driver, Tran Huy Tao, after the video was shared last week.

The bus was apparently traveling at high speed with the driver using both hands to operate his phone for at least half a minute.

Passengers said the driver was using the phone for “entertainment” while they were on the Hanoi-Lao Cai expressway.

Tao, 32, said he was looking for the number of a person he'd been asked to deliver a package to.

A new law, effective from the beginning of this year, imposes fines of VND600,000 to VND800,000 ($26-35) on car and truck drivers caught using their phones while driving. Before, only motorbike drivers were subject to these fines.

The law was put in place after several deadly crashes, including one in October 2014 when a bus driver in the central province of Nghe An killed a family of three on a motorbike. Police found the driver had been talking on his cellphone at the time of the tragedy.

But many drivers are not deterred by either the fatal risks or the penalties.

In March, a driver in northern Vietnam was fined VND700,000 after a passenger reported that he had been surfing Facebook on his phone for around 10 minutes while driving on an expressway. Another from central Vietnam received the same fine in a similar story in February.

Different reports show that nearly 40 percent of Vietnam’s population of over 90 million has a smartphone. Eight in 10 Vietnamese are projected to have the device by 2020.

There have been few, if any, studies on the link between cellphone use and road accidents that have been carried out in the country.

International studies suggest that drivers using a mobile phone are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash than when they do not, according to the World Health Organization. Text messaging, specifically, creates a crash risk 23 times higher than when driving while not distracted, according to Distraction.gov., an official U.S. government website.

Traffic deaths remain high in Vietnam, killing an average of one person every hour.