Wives and other ruses to avoid drunk-driving fines

By Minh Trang, Hien Nga   January 13, 2020 | 07:00 pm PT
Wives and other ruses to avoid drunk-driving fines
A group of four cheer with their drinks at a pub in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, January 2020. The three people with beer do not drive while the one with the bottled water drives a motorbike. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Diep.
With stringent penalties imposed for driving under the influence, Vietnamese are coming up with safer ways to enjoy a tipple without a stumble.

Tran Minh, 25, gave his wife the key to their motorbike. He’d just had a few beers with his friends.

A week after the Law on Preventing Alcohol's Harmful Effects took effect on January 1, it was the second time that Minh had sent an sos to his wife, Nguyen Thi Hoa.

Minh, a resident of Hanoi's Hoang Mai District, said he was not an alcoholic, but does go out with friends and have a few drinks every now and then.

Previously, he and his friends gave no second thought to driving home on their own, but the doubling of penalties by the new law has forced a rethink.

Under the new law, any driver with alcohol on his or her breath faces fines of VND400,000-600,000 ($17-26) if caught driving bicycles or electric motorbikes. For motorcyclists drivers, the fines are VND6-8 million, and cars, VND30-40 million. All drivers could have their licenses revoked for 22-24 months.

"Since the beginning of the year, I have promised my wife to take a cab home after drinking. In case she joins me, she drives," Minh said.

The couple have also reached an agreement that Hoa will charge her husband the same amount he would pay a ride-hailing service.

"I’ve got VND60,000 ($2.60) so far and he’s safe from the fines," she said.

Weekdays dry days

Nguyen Van Lam, 40, and his colleagues have decided to move all of their pub time from weekdays, after work, to the weekend, and call a cab instead of driving their own motorbikes.

Nguyen Tien Dung, 38, a businessman from Nam Tu Liem District, has also chosen to take the taxi route.

A businessman, Dung said most of his deals are struck amidst drinking sessions, and he is yet to come up with a better solution than taxis. He has thought about buying a device to check the alcohol level himself but he is not sure about the quality and prices of products he has seen on the market.

Sober realizations

Along with his friends and colleagues, Truong Ba Ngoc, 38, of Ha Dong District had a big drinking party on the last day of 2019, not only to say goodbye to the old year but to enjoy themselves thoroughly before the new law took effect.

Then, for the entire day of January 1, he did not dare to go outside on any vehicle.

The day after, he decided to call in sick and stay at home, feeling that his breath still reeked of alcohol.

Realizing what drinking too much can do to his sick leave, which is limited to just 12 days a year, Ngoc said he has forced himself to reduce the number of time he goes out to have a drink. Ever since the new year, he has gone to the pub just once. His earlier habit was to go drinking every two days.

Ngoc also ordered a type of tea from China that’s said to be a hangover remedy which can also quickly reduce the alcohol content in the body.

It turned out that all the advertising about the tea was just hype. "I had as much as one liter of that tea, but my breath still stayed the same, smelling of alcohol," he complained.

One of his drinking buddies had a different experience. He switched from driving his car to a motorbike so that he could walk it when he saw cops on the street.

One day, the friend got quite drunk and fell with the motorbike. "My friend ended up getting hurt and his motorbike got some scratches, too."

Nguyen Minh Duc, 35, of Thanh Xuan District said he had lost a friend just over a year ago to drunk driving.

"He died on Christmas Eve. He drank with some customers in Saigon and got into an accident when returning from the party, driving when he was drunk."

Duc has taken the new regulation seriously and found others wanting to do the same.

He has set up a group on social media to connect those who need to go out for a drinks and get a safe drive home. The group now has more than 2,000 members and so far, around 100 drives have been made by sober drivers to carry members home after drinking.

Pham Lan Huong, 25, of Ba Dinh District said she has a few drinks five-six times per week, not because she is addicted, just to relax her mind.

However, for the past ten days, she has not visited any bar or pub. She has chosen to have her drinks at home. On days she needs an outdoor vibe, Huong ensures she only returns home at around 1-2 a.m., to avoid police patrols.

Police across the country have handled 3,785 cases of drunk driving in less than a fortnight this year, collecting fines of VND12.5 billion (almost $540,000) under the new law.

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