Vietnam's DUI laws: a comparison with Southeast Asian peers

By Minh Nga   February 24, 2024 | 04:17 am PT
Vietnam's DUI laws: a comparison with Southeast Asian peers
A traffic police shows a driver the amount of alcohol measured in his breath in Ho Chi Minh City, November 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van
Vietnam's efforts to curb driving under the influence of alcohol have intensified in recent months, notably with the implementation of stricter laws and penalties.

It reflects a growing regional trend of enhancing road safety and reducing alcohol-related accidents.

In Vietnam, the legal alcohol content limit for drivers is zero, effectively making it illegal to drive after consuming any amount of alcohol.

The penalties for violating these limits include hefty fines of up to VND40 million (US$1,640), temporary suspension of driving licenses and, in flagrant cases, imprisonment.

These measures, enshrined in the Law on Prevention and Control of Harms of Liquor and Beer Abuse, were introduced to tackle the high rate of alcohol-related traffic accidents.

Comparison with Southeast Asia

In Thailand the maximum legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for car drivers is 0.05%, marginally more lenient than Vietnam's.

Penalties include fines, imprisonment and suspension of driving licenses, depending on the severity of the offense. Thailand also imposes harsher penalties on repeat offenders.

The Philippines also has a BAC limit of 0.05% for drivers. The Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Law prescribes fines, imprisonment and mandatory participation in road safety seminars for violators.

The law also mandates the use of breath analyzers and field sobriety tests.

Malaysia has a BAC limit of 0.08%, one of the higher limits in the region.

DUI offenses can result in fines, imprisonment and license suspension. Malaysia's approach combines legal deterrence with educational campaigns to reduce drunk driving incidents.

Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance policy towards drunk driving, with a BAC limit of 0.08%. Penalties are severe, including heavy fines, long-term imprisonment and caning for the most serious offenses.

Singapore's strict laws reflect its broader commitment to public safety.

Drivers stop at a red light in Singapore, May 28, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Nga

Drivers stop at a red light in Singapore, May 28, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Nga

Indonesia is unique as it has regions with complete bans on alcohol consumption. Nationally, the legal framework around DUI is less clear-cut, focusing more on preventing alcohol consumption in certain areas.

Penalties for DUI vary significantly across different jurisdictions within the country.

The effectiveness of DUI laws in reducing alcohol-related traffic incidents varies across Southeast Asia, influenced by factors such as law enforcement capacity, public awareness and cultural attitudes towards drinking and driving.

In comparison, countries with slightly higher BAC limits like Thailand and the Philippines focus on a combination of penalties and education to deter DUI. Malaysia and Singapore, with their comprehensive approach, highlight the importance of both strict laws and public awareness campaigns in curbing DUI offenses.

Vietnam's stringent zero-tolerance policy is a significant step towards enhancing road safety, aligning with a regional push towards stricter alcohol consumption regulations to mitigate traffic accidents.

However, challenges remain in terms of enforcement consistency and public education on the dangers of drunk driving.

In a statement released this week affirming its stance on maintaining the policy of no driving with any amount of alcohol, the Ministry of Public Security said: "Traffic on the roads in Vietnam requires drivers to maintain alertness and quicker reflexes many times over in case of sudden situations."

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, it added.

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