Traffic crackdown nets 5,200 drunk drivers in one week

By Nguyen Quy   May 23, 2020 | 09:30 pm PT
Traffic crackdown nets 5,200 drunk drivers in one week
Traffic police stop a motorbike driver on a street in Hanoi, May 15, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh.
The first week of a month-long random traffic crackdown fined around 100,000 drivers for various violations, including 5,200 for drunk driving.

Starting May 15, thousands of traffic police officers have been patrolling the streets in a nationwide crackdown launched after observing a post social distancing spike in traffic violations including drunk driving, resisting officers and illegal road racing.

From May 15 to 22, the police dealt with a total of 101,469 drivers and imposed fines of up to VND75.5 billion ($3.25 million), according to the latest report from the Traffic Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security.

More than 15,880 vehicles were seized while some 6,440 drivers had their licenses revoked.

Common violations included failure to wear helmets (17,200 cases), driving without licenses or vehicle registration documents (12,200), and speeding (7,800).

On average, the officers found nearly 800 drivers driving under the influence each day during the first week of the campaign, the report said.

A 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 car drivers could have their driving license suspended for 22-24 months.

The crackdown had an immediate impact on road safety and traffic accidents.

During the first week of the crackdown, 185 road accidents were recorded, down 34 percent from a week earlier. The accidents claimed 74 lives, down 52 percent.

Commuters annoyed

However, many drivers expressed their annoyance at being stopped continuously for paper checks and alcohol breath tests, though they had committed no violations.

During the crackdown, traffic police officers are allowed to patrol streets across the country 24/7 to check papers and drivers for driving under the influence. Normally, the police can only stop a vehicle if the driver has flouted some regulation, but in this campaign vehicles are pulled over randomly for checking.

On May 19, Phung Van Quy was driving a truck on National Highway 17 in Thuan Thanh District in the northern province of Bac Ninh when he was stopped by traffic police officers. His papers, breath and even urine were checked and everything was found clean. The testing took 10 minutes and he was allowed to go.

Quy said he wondered whether he would be stopped at different checkpoints, after passing all the tests at this checkpoint, as he passed through Hai Duong Province and Hai Phong City.

"If I am continuously stopped for random checks, it would cost me a lot of time, and the delivery deadline my company has committed to," he said.

Bui Danh Lien, vice president of the Hanoi Transport Association, said the campaign's aim to reduce road violations and traffic accidents is needed. However, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic inflicting great economic damage, authorities need to study appropriate inspection methods to minimize disruptions to business activities, production and normal travel, he added.

Some bus drivers complained that on a highway in Ninh Binh Province, traffic police stopped many drivers at the same time and many had to wait for more than an hour to be tested for alcohol in their breath.

A senior official of the traffic police department, however, said each paper and alcohol breath check takes just two minutes and called for cooperation from local people in the effort to minimize traffic accidents and fatalities.

Meanwhile, many citizens have expressed concerns over possible abuse of power by traffic cops during the month-long campaign set to last until June 14.

During the first week of the campaign, a total of 450,000 vehicles were stopped for random checks, but less than a quarter were fined, meaning that others have been stopped while driving on the streets without committing any violation.

Road accidents are a leading cause of death in Vietnam, killing almost one person every hour.

In the first three months of this year, the country recorded more than 3,400 traffic accidents in which more than 1,600 people were killed and 2,500 others injured.

The number of accidents and fatalities were both 14 percent down year-on-year, according to the National Traffic Safety Committee.

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