Vietnamese drivers are not built for expressways, yet

February 19, 2024 | 06:19 pm PT
Le Tran Quynh Businessman
The recent tragic accident on the Cam Lo - La Son expressway has sparked a debate: Are the slew of recent accidents the fault of expressways or drivers?

The Cam Lo - La Son Expressway has only two lanes, no hard median, and a four-lane overtaking section every 10 km.

The accident on Sunday happened after a car driver tried to pass a vehicle though he was not in a section designated for overtaking. To make things worse, he tried to do so on the right.

The car hit a truck, spun around, and then was hit by another truck coming in the opposite direction before being thrown off the expressway, killing a woman and her two children in the car.

Some people have blamed the narrowness of the expressway and the fact it has only two lanes.

I have driven in many countries around the world and expressways with only two lanes are very common. Developed countries prioritize expressway investments, recognizing the significant financial implications. The number of lanes and speed limits are decided based on the volume of traffic passing through.

I used to drive across the Australian desert, where most expressways have only two lanes and a gas station only every 300 km. I had to spend the night at a gas station to wait for it to open. Like the Cam Lo - La Son Expressway, that road too has some wide parts to allow overtaking. Sometimes there would be trucks as long as a train driving along the expressway, and car drivers like me had to patiently follow them until reaching the overtaking section to pass them.

In America, the expressway through the Arizona desert I once used was similar. Route 66 too has only two lanes, and drivers have to learn to be patient and wait for the overtaking section.

Of course, desert roads in Australia or Arizona do not have the high traffic volume of 1,500 vehicles a day like the Cam Lo - La Son highway.

It will certainly be better if these 1,500 vehicles have a four- or six-lane road. But what I am saying is that expressways do not necessarily have many lanes.

Trucks wait in line on Cam Lo - La Son Expressway as police block a section to handle an accident that killed three people on Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh

Trucks wait in line on Cam Lo - La Son Expressway as police block a section to handle an accident that killed three people on Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh

If there are abundant resources, we can build multi-lane expressways right away. Vietnam is not well-off, and so it is logical to build expressways in stages to meet the travel needs of its people.

The government has plans to widen Cam Lo – La Son and five other two-lane highways to four in future.

With such limitations, it is even more important to follow the rules on expressways, which many drivers in Vietnam are still getting acquainted with.

Vietnamese drivers generally do not have much experience with automobiles, and even less with expressways.

In many cases, it is a new driver, new road and new car – a perfect recipe for accidents.

The best way to get used to the new thing, expressways, is to learn the rules, learn to drive seriously and absolutely follow the lessons on the road.

Typical rules on expressways include keeping on the right lane and at the right speed. But drivers violate them all the time.

Participating in traffic means thinking in the same language; too many languages on the way will only lead to misunderstandings and collisions.

I drive all over the world using a simple common language: Overtake on the left in countries where the driver's steering wheel is on the left, and vice versa, and you have to patiently wait until you can pass. Absolutely obey all signs. At low speeds, you must stay in the inner lane, giving the outer lane to faster vehicles.

The main reason for accidents on Vietnam’s expressways is people’s poor awareness, according to statistics.

That you have to wear a seat belt even while sitting in the back and should overtake only on the left are basic lessons that have yet to be learned.

Many drivers forget, sometimes deliberately, the "language" of traffic.

Ignoring this common language while driving will leave heartbreaking consequences.

*Le Tran Quynh is a businessman.

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