Vietnam police crack down on drunk drivers ahead of national holiday

By VnExpress   August 12, 2016 | 12:00 am PT
Vietnam police crack down on drunk drivers ahead of national holiday
A driver taking breath alcohol concentration test. Photo by VnExpress/Ba Do
Any trace of alcohol in your body will result in a fine of up to $800.

Police in four of Vietnam's largest big cities will launch a campaign to punish traffic violators, targeting drunk drivers from beer clubs, bars and restaurants, the Cong An Nhan Dan (People’s Police Newspaper) reported Thursday.

The measures are part of a broader operation to ensure traffic safety nationwide during the country’s National Day on September 2.

Starting August 16, traffic police in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Can Tho will patrol these areas from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and take action to deal with those who refuse to cooperate.

Under a government decree that became effective on August 1 this year, drivers must obey police orders and take an alcohol test via breath or blood if requested to do so.

They will be fined VND2 million ($88.6)-VND3 million ($132.9) if any traces of alcohol are found up to 50 milligrams/100 milliliters of blood or 0.25 milligrams/1 liter of breath. The fine will be raised to VND7 million -VND8 million if the alcohol concentration is between 50-80 milligrams/100 milliliters of blood or 0.25-0.4 milligrams/1 liter of breath.

Violators will be fined VND16 million-VND18 million if the alcohol concentration surpasses 80 milligrams/100 milliliters of blood or 0.4 milligrams/1 liter on a breath test, or if they refuse to take a test.

Normally alcohol concentration will stay below 50 milligrams/100 milliliters of blood or 0.25 milligrams/1 liter of breath if a person drinks less than two shots of 40 percent liqor, Infonet, the official news site of the Ministry of Information and Communications' newspaper, quoted Dr. Pham Dinh Tuan from the Thai Ha Health and Labor Center in Hanoi as saying in March last year.

The same goes for a 100-milliliter glass of wine (13.5 percent alcohol content) or a 330-milliliter bottle of beer.

However, this latest crack down will punish anyone who has traces of alcohol in their system.

Alcohol concentration depends on the volume of alcohol drunk, the weight of the drinker, the sex of the person and the duration between when they finish drinking and when a test is taken. Alcohol concentration is different in men and women. If a man and a woman drink the same glass of wine, the alcohol concentration in the woman’s blood will be higher than the man’s because there is less water and more fatty compounds in the woman’s body than in the man’s.

Khuat Viet Hung, deputy chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said in July that Vietnam loses an estimated VND250 billion (US$11.2 million) a day on average due to traffic accidents.

A recent study by the World Health Organization and the National Traffic Safety Committee conducted in hospitals in Vietnam’s north found that 36.9 percent or more of the 18,000 patients involved in traffic accidents showed traces of alcohol.

Traffic accidents claimed around 9,000 lives in 2015, according to the committee.

More efforts are being made to help lower traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers. The National Traffic Safety Committee and the Vietnam Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Association early last year started a pilot initiative in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang to ask restaurants, bars and nightclubs to call taxis to take intoxicated patrons home.

But in a country where people’s thirst for beer is just too difficult to quench, alcohol consumption has recorded fast growth rates over the last few years.

Vietnam is the top beer consumer in Southeast Asia and the third-largest consumer in Asia, just after Japan and China, industry figures show.

"Thanks to a strong culture of beer drinking, Vietnam represents a clear market opportunity for foreign alcoholic drinks brands," global market research firm Euromonitor International said in a report in June.

"With drinking beer and wine being an indispensable pleasure in the lives of Vietnamese consumers to kill time or to relieve boredom, most have developed a habit of more frequently going out to eat and drink," the report said.

"This trend has supported the growth of alcoholic drinks as large numbers of beer restaurants have opened on streets, especially around universities and industrial parks." 

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