Seizing vehicles might not be the best punishment for traffic violations

January 14, 2024 | 05:14 pm PT
Tran Huu Hiep Economist, legal expert
For the past few days every afternoon I have been seeing my neighbor, wearing a student's backpack, walking his daughter home through the alley.

I asked him about it, and he said: "I had a breath analyzer test and my motorbike was seized."

He continued sadly: "Every time we need to travel, my wife yells at me ... Taking our daughter to school, picking her up, going to the market. It’s inconvenient to run to the neighbors and borrow their motorbike every time, but walking is too hard."

The young couple had saved up forever to buy the motorbike. Every day the husband rode it to work, and the wife sold things online.

One day he had some fun at the company’s year-end party, and his driver's license was confiscated, he had to pay a fine equivalent to his entire year-end bonus and he has to take the bus to work every day.

He was duly punished for his violation, but his wife suffered too. She was so upset that one day she yelled at him: "You drank, not the motorbike; why seize it?"

The impounding of vehicles for traffic violations by drivers has been in effect for many years and with positive effects.

But it also has many shortcomings that, in my opinion, should prompt lawmakers to reconsider legal regulations and improve them.

There are millions of seized vehicles in the country, many never collected back by their owners.

A motorbike is seized in HCMC after its driver failed a breath analyzer test, December 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van

A motorbike is seized in HCMC after its driver failed a breath analyzer test, December 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van

According to a report by the National Traffic Safety Committee, in the first six months of 2023, the police seized 528,461 vehicles of all types.

Four years ago the National Assembly's Law Committee held an explanatory session on the detention and confiscation of vehicles.

Statistics at the time showed that between 2013 and 2019, more than 4.3 million cars and motorbikes had been impounded.

Not only does it cause inconvenience to people, as in my neighbor's case, but this large number of vehicles is also becoming a burden for authorities.

The procedure for confiscating and auctioning a vehicle (that is abandoned by the owner) takes a lot of time, and involves lots of searching for documents, verification, appraisal, valuation, and listing notice. But the money raised by auctioning the vehicles is insignificant.

Since the value of many motorbikes is lower than the fine, many violators abandon their bikes to avoid paying the fine, leaving millions of bikes with the police. The government has to spend a significant amount of money on parking, personnel and security equipment.

Locked vehicles bring the risk of fire and explosion, and are a huge waste.

Except for some vehicles to be used as evidence in criminal cases, it is not necessary to seize vehicles as a form of punishment: It is the driver who needs to be dealt with.

In addition to fines, violators should have their driver's licenses confiscated, meaning their right to control the vehicles will be limited.

Vehicle seizures are not necessary; they are mere inanimate objects.

The southern An Giang Province proposed in 2020 that the government should consider stopping the seizure of vehicles in some cases to avoid overloading parking areas.

Proposals for individuals and organizations to bail their vehicles have also been made in a government decree.

It is a good idea, but the implementation has not achieved the desired effect due to complicated procedures.

Punishment should give violators the opportunity to correct their mistakes, creating new economic benefits for themselves and society.

Laws should offer a constructive choice, instead of just punishment.

*Tran Huu Hiep is an economist who holds a master’s degree in law.

The opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily match VnExpress's viewpoints. Send your opinions here.
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