HCMC - Da Lat highway poses high risk of accidents

By Staff reporters   October 9, 2023 | 10:52 pm PT
National Highway 20, the only road linking HCMC and Da Lat City, is narrow and runs through residential areas and hills in places, posing a challenge for drivers.

In just over a week now there have been at least four accidents in its section in Dinh Quan District, Dong Nai Province, involving trucks and passenger buses. Five people lost their lives as a result.

The latest one took place early on September 30 when a sleeper bus crashed into a 16-seat van, killing the van's driver and four passengers.

The highway runs more than 260 km from Thong Nhat District in Dong Nai Province near HCMC to Don Duong District in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, home to Da Lat, one of Vietnam's top tourist attractions.

It traverses two passes.

As the only link between the two cities, it is usually congested.

A section of National Highway 20 through Dinh Quan District of Dong Nai Province. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van

A section of National Highway 20 through Dinh Quan District of Dong Nai Province. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van

Besides buses and vans carrying passengers, the road is also used by cargo trucks, especially ones carrying vegetables from Lam Dong to HCMC, increasing the risk of accidents.

Nguyen Van Minh, 45, who lives in Dinh Quan District, said the road is busiest at night, and passenger buses drive very fast and honk loudly then, demanding right of way.

During the day when the highway is not crowded, truck and bus drivers stray into the wrong lane to pass other vehicles, he said.

Motorbikes have to stick to the edge of the road to keep themselves safe from the large vehicles.

"There would be a traffic accident every few days."

According to official data, in the first nine months this year there were 40 major accidents on the highway in which 34 people died and 20 others were injured.

Last year there were 24 accidents and 22 deaths.

Most of them occurred in the section in Dong Nai and the Bao Loc Pass in Lam Dong Province.

A van collide with a truck on National Highway 20 in Dong Nai Province, April 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Thai Ha

A van after colliding with a truck on National Highway 20 in Dong Nai Province, April 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Thai Ha

A Department for Roads of Vietnam official said National Highway 20 is a crucial road linking HCMC with the southeastern region and the Central Highlands and normally has a lot of traffic but just two lanes and no median strip.

He admitted many drivers speed and fail to keep a safe distance from each other.

Hills, passes, sharp turns, steep slopes, and sometimes thick fog make things harder.

The section through Dong Nai Province has many residential areas and narrow stretches that taper to a mere six meters in some places.

Pham Hoai, 36, a truck driver who often transports fresh vegetables from Da Lat to the Thu Duc wholesale market in HCMC, said normally the vegetables are loaded late in the afternoon so that they could reach the market early in the morning.

"Drivers only have six hours to travel a distance of more than 350 km from Da Lat to HCMC failing which we have our salaries docked."

Meanwhile, in the opposite direction, sleeper buses from HCMC carry passengers to Da Lat since people prefer traveling at night.

As a result, most drivers on the highway suffer from sleep deprivation and could not concentrate on their driving, said Hoai.

Colonel Tran Anh Son, deputy director of the Dong Nai Police Department, said the Department for Roads should provide the province with data about all vehicles traveling on the highway for better monitoring.

"This will allow the Dong Nai police to easily identify drivers violating traffic rules as well as when and where the violations occur."

The Department for Roads has recommended that the Ministry of Transport should widen the highway and build a median strip and install more surveillance cameras to catch violators.

The Dau Giay – Lien Khuong Expressway is now under construction, and it will run more than 200 kilometers between Dong Nai and Lam Dong Province, easing pressure on National Highway 20.

It is expected to be completed by 2030.

A map of National Highway 20. Photo by Google Maps

A map of National Highway 20 between Dong Nai Province and Da Lat. Photo by Google Maps

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