Vietnam needs zero-tolerance for drunk driving

By Milton Tonmil   February 25, 2024 | 04:36 pm PT
Vietnam needs zero-tolerance for drunk driving
Traffic police officers check alcohol level of a driver in Thu Duc City, HCMC, Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van
Vietnamese people prefer to drive themselves, even when drunk, rather than using public transport, so how can we demand zero-tolerance alcohol policies like in Japan and Singapore?

The Ministry of Public Security has made it clear: its zero-tolerance policy aims to encourage citizens to drink less alcohol and use public transport after drinking. In the future, we will also move towards banning personal vehicles in downtown areas once enough electric trains and buses are available, like in developed countries, making personal vehicles no longer necessary.

In my opinion, the zero-tolerance alcohol policy is intended to change the habits of our people, who rank 9th among the top 10 peoples of the world when it comes to quantity of alcohol consumption.

When these habits do change, Vietnamese can spend more time working, studying, and taking care of their families, instead of engaging in idle gossip and drinking all day, which affects neighbors, families, and society.

Regarding those who oppose the current policy, I ask them this: if there is another limit other than zero, do drinkers know when to stop? Even if everyone owns a breathalyzer to check themselves before driving, what if the traffic police's results are different? Will you accept the penalty, or argue and waste the authorities' time?

The argument that "nothing is absolute" leads many to find ways to circumvent the law. I believe that giving advice to alcoholics is like playing a lute to a buffalo. If we allow people to drink tiny but strong shots of liquor, when will they stop drinking?

A beer in Singapore costs $7, and exceeding the alcohol limit can result in fines of $2,000 - 5,000. Only the wealthy can afford to drink, and they may not dare to drink for fear of heavy fines. Thus, alcohol consumption does not significantly contribute to Singapore's GDP.

If we do not enforce a zero-tolerance alcohol policy, I believe some will claim, "I just kissed someone who drank alcohol, so my breath has alcohol" as an excuse to avoid penalties. Not banning completely means we must adopt the laws of developed countries, such as imprisonment for 6-12 months for violating alcohol limits, with repeat offenses leading to two years in jail. Would those opposing the policy accept such penalties, or would they protest even more?

In the debate over the zero-tolerance policy, one side lacks scientific evidence (the opposition), while the other relies on breathalyzers and blood tests to penalize drivers with alcohol in their system. It's clear which side is correct, eliminating the need for further debate.

Japanese people habitually walk and use public transport daily, while Vietnamese prefer to drive themselves, even when drunk. If we do not want a total ban on alcohol, we need solutions to moderate drinking habits. Instead of only objecting, think of solutions.

Here, no one bans you from drinking alcohol, but if you do consume alcohol, you must have someone sober drive. The issue is the preference for driving oneself, and the reluctance to spend money on a taxi, leading many to argue against the current regulations. When the sense of etiquette and responsibility of the Vietnamese people are on par with those of Japan and Singapore, then we can consider relaxing the regulations. Otherwise, a total ban is necessary.

Singapore does not enforce a zero alcohol limit, but they implement three measures: 1) Increase the price of alcohol and tighten the production of unlicensed alcohol, 2) set an alcohol limit but completely ban alcohol consumption from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning, and 3) impose heavy penalties for violations.

A first-time violation results in a $2,000 fine, failure to pay leads to 12 months in prison, while repeat offenses would result in a $5,000 fine or two years in prison. This period allows violators to rehabilitate from alcohol addiction.

If you do not want a total ban, try adopting Singapore's approach and see. Those opposing a zero-tolerance alcohol policy might end up complaining a hundred times more than they do now.

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