Pedestrians do not get the space they deserve

By Le Anh Tuan   July 31, 2022 | 04:43 pm PT
Pedestrians do not get the space they deserve
Pedestrians walk across a street in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem District, February 1, 2016. Photo by VnExpress/Ba Do
There are laws that give right of way to pedestrians on streets, but many Vietnamese do not seem to have got the memo.

The 2008 Law on Road Traffic lists situations where pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users get priority, whether or not there are crosswalks.

There are even fines for violations, but let’s be honest: vehicle drivers do not really care about them.

Every time someone has to cross a street where there are no traffic lights or crosswalks, it is as if they have to stake their very life, eyes darting from side to side, arms flailing and desperate not to be hit by the chaotic traffic.

Why does it have to be this way?

First off, there are many people who simply never read up on road traffic laws. They may drive cars or motorbikes to work every day, but they are not aware that pedestrians must always be prioritized. They do not know that they have to slow down and let pedestrians cross the street safely if they see certain traffic signs or crosswalks in front of them.

While most people are simply unaware of the law, I believe some are just selfish. They value their time above all else, and think that because their vehicles are fast enough, they are allowed to slip through those pedestrians in front. They do not care about, or at the very least make light of, other people’s safety.

An important fact is that the fines for these violations are just too low. Let us look at an example.

The penal code says those who intentionally damage others’ property worth up to VND50 million ($2,140) can be fined the same amount or even jailed for three years.

But traffic regulations only impose a fine of VND400,000 for drivers not making way for pedestrians and wheelchairs.

How can violations that could cost a person’s life warrant a lesser fine than property damage? And then authorities rarely enforce these fines unless an accident occurs.

What we need to do is make the tests for driver’s licenses harder as there are many people who lack knowledge about traffic laws despite having a license. This is where authorities need to come in.

We should also introduce harsher fines for those who do not make way for pedestrians on the road. Make it heavy, like 10-20 times more than what they are now, because these violations could directly impact others’ safety.

There should also be more ways to monitor such violations, for instance through surveillance cameras.

Of all those on the streets, pedestrians and disabled people are perhaps the most vulnerable.

I believe these tougher measures will help protect them better.

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