DUI: Wives take the car wheel as husbands imbibe the Tet spirit

By Quynh Nguyen   January 31, 2023 | 10:00 pm PT
Quynh Hoa was afraid her husband would drink and drive after Tet gatherings, so she chauffeured him around the whole Lunar New Year holiday.

Her husband, Hong Quan, used to drive the family to and from holiday celebrations, so he refrained from getting too inebriated at Tet gatherings.

The 48-year-old tried to limit his drinking as much as possible in the days leading up to Tet because traffic police were setting up alcohol breathalyzer checkpoints on every street corner.

However, due to the nature of his work in the shipping sector, he was required to attend numerous business meetings, social events, and parties around Tet. So, he took taxis or asked friends and acquaintances to drive him home after being "forced to drink."

When Hoa saw how much trouble her husband was having getting around, the 45 years old made the decision to be her husband's personal driver during Tet.

This year's Tet lasted from January 20-26.

The couple agreed that if Quan needed to attend a Tet gathering, he would call a cab to get there. Once it was over, he would text his wife the address so she could pick him up.

"On the third day of Tet, the police stopped our car for a breathalyzer test," said Hoa. "My husband was dozing off in the passenger seat when I blew into the breathalyzer with complete assurance."

She said the police officers told her she wasn’t the first sober wife they’d encountered driving her husband home.

Quynh Hoa drives her husband home after a Tet social gathering event on January 26, 2023. Photo courtesy of Hoa

Quynh Hoa drives her husband home after a Tet event on January 26, 2023. Photo courtesy of Hoa

Phuong Huyen and her 40-year-old husband, who live in Hanoi, frequently travel to their parents' hometowns of Hai Duong and Hung Yen at the end of the year to honor their ancestors and celebrate Tet with family and friends.

Huyen said that she usually watches her husband repeatedly decline alcohol because he has to drive. But he would then get made fun of by his friends and family for not "respecting brothers enough to cheer a few beers with them." So, she decided to help out by driving them back to Hanoi.

Since Tet, she and her husband have been using this strategy when heading from their hometown or even attending friends' or relatives' get-togethers in the city.

No fees, no penalties

Hoa and Huyen have thus ensured that their husbands were not among the 80,600 drivers who were fined for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) during a Traffic Police drunk driving crackdown that took place November 2022 - February 2023.

Reports from the Ministry of Public Safety show that traffic police dealt with over 7,700 alcohol-content-related offenses during the first week of the Lunar New Year in 2023. This is six times higher than the same period last year.

Tet 2023 saw a 31.84% drop in road accidents compared to Tet 2019, with 36.43 fewer fatalities and 47.64 fewer injuries. There was a significant drop in the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents that required hospitalization at several hospitals compared to previous years.

By focusing on alcohol-related traffic infractions during Tet this year, authorities hope to increase driver vigilance.

Major Tran Quang Chinh, Deputy Captain of the Road Traffic Police Team No. 6 (Hanoi Police), claimed that the public is more aware of the dangers of drunk driving as a result of the aggressive alcohol breath testing and strict fines.

After seeing many people complain about being fined for DUIs, Duc Nghia from Dong Nai started booking motorbike taxis whenever he went out drinking with friends this year. When a ride isn’t available, he asks his wife to pick him up.

He said he and many other drivers had ditched the idea of driving after binge drinking due to the high DUI fines being enforced.

"I have not seen someone be let off with a warning or a minimized fine for a DUI," said 60-year-old Nghia. "Therefore, I won't drive if I am going to drink."

A police officer tests a car driver for alcohol in Hanoi during the run-up to Tet, January 17, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh

A police officer tests a car driver for alcohol in Hanoi during the run-up to Tet, January 17, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh

Anyone driving with alcohol present in their body now faces either fines or criminal charges in accordance with Vietnamese law.

Motorcyclists (including those on electric motorcycles) can be fined up to VND2-8 million ($85.29-341.15) and receive a license suspension of 10-24 months.

Car drivers face fines of between VND6-40 million and could also have their drivers’ licenses revoked.

Mai Anh, Nghia's wife, said she doesn't find being the designated driver troublesome or tiresome.

"My husband used to get so intoxicated that he couldn't even contact me by phone or text to tell me he was okay," she said. "While he was out, I was at home worrying sick. Now that I've found this solution, I can bring him home without worrying that he won't make it home safely," concluded 60-year-old Anh.

However, sometimes the transition towards a wife driving a husband home, instead of the other way around, isn’t easy.

Quan said that his friends have teased him and say that he is "scared" of his wife and has to "report" his whereabouts.

Hoa also said that she has been labeled a "slave" to her husband due to her constant availability.

But despite some skepticism, the couple has ultimately agreed to continue to follow through with their plan because of its positive effects, not the least of which is how much safer their children and parents now reel

Huyen said she is not embarrassed by frequently picking up her spouse. Not only does the new arrangement provide her peace of mind, she said, it also protects her husband from potential penalties.

Now her husband doesn’t have to worry about politely declining invitations for a drink when they visit their hometown, she added.

"The old adage that the man should drive and the woman should sit on the passenger seat is outdated," she said.

"Anyone can get behind the wheel, so long as they keep themselves and others around them safe."

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