I live in fear every day I drive

By Vu Thi Minh Huyen   November 1, 2023 | 06:24 pm PT
I live in fear every day I drive
Heavy traffic on Cong Hoa Street of Tan Binh District, HCMC, August 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Every day when I drive to and from work, fear invades me.

I'm afraid of having to face the hordes of motorbikes driving on the wrong side of the street.

I've seen many people breaking traffic rules on the road, just because they want to save a few minutes of their time. Sometimes, they do so by running head-on towards the traffic moving in the opposite direction. It is a reckless and dangerous move that may cost them their lives – or it could claim someone else's life.

Just this recent morning, when I was trying to steer towards the entrance gates to the building I work at on Tran Phu Street in Ha Dong District, a motorbike coming in from the opposite direction nearly hit me.

The thing is that this happens so frequently that I've started to become afraid. Some people do so without any concern for anything else going on around, even when the proper turning point to switch lanes is just a few dozen meters away. Fortunately, I often drive slowly and always watch the road, so I have not been hit.

Traffic etiquette in Vietnam is still very poor, even when traffic police officers continually remind people to follow the rules and fine violators, the impact doesn't last. You can always see law breakers being fined on the road, some for speeding, others for not wearing helmets. They are traffic hazards. But whenever police aren't there, people keep on breaking the law.

This is why some very tragic accidents have happened near my company's gates. Lives have been lost. In Hanoi, these lawbreakers have also contributed to traffic congestion. And this is not only an issue in Hanoi, but in many major cities across the nation. It has been this way for generations.

People like me, who abide by the law, live in constant anxiety every day on the road. It will be a long time until Vietnamese people learn proper traffic manners. The law's already here, the punishment's already here. Then why can't people just follow the rules?

If we only rely on punishments from authorities to deter violations, we're only treating the symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself. We need to start with more education, making people more aware of the impact their behaviors have on the world around them, in order to spur them into doing the right thing.

Increasing the amount and variety of fines, including more vehicle seizures, could also be a viable solution to deter further violations. That's how we can keep traffic in order and reduce the number of accidents.

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