Teenagers on electric mopeds become road safety concerns

By Thanh Nga, Quynh Nguyen   April 3, 2024 | 05:29 am PT
Struck by an electric moped as it raced out of an alley, Tuyet Hanh tumbled to the road, fracturing her bones and bruising her body.

The offender, a young male student without a helmet, swiftly fled the scene, leaving Hanh behind with one leg still trapped beneath her fallen motorbike.

Unable to move, the 28-year-old girl from Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi, was soon taken to the nearest medical station for her injuries.

"I was completely caught off guard. The person responsible for the accident neither honked nor looked around while speeding through the alley," Hanh recounted.

Two helmetless riders on an electric motorbike on Dao Tan Street, Hanois Ba Dinh District, captured on March 20, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Two helmetless riders on an electric motorbike on Dao Tan Street, Hanoi's Ba Dinh District, captured on March 20, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Trong Nghia, a 45-year-old resident of Hai Phong, experienced a collision with an electric motorbike when its driver – a young student - intentionally ran a red light. Thankfully, due to Nghia’s cautious speed, steady handling, and quick reflexes, the incident did not result in any severe consequences.

"Speeding in silence" is how the man aptly characterized today’s electric scooters.

According to Nghia, the peril of these vehicles lies in their ability to move without making any noise. Most of their operators are minors, who are not fully equipped with traffic knowledge and skills. They tend to disregard helmet usage, do not honk, and often run red lights.

"Compared to normal motorbikes and cars, the penalties for electric scooters and motorbikes are still too lenient. It’s not enough to deter these drivers from breaking traffic safety rules," Nghia asserted.

In response to the situation, on March 15, Khuat Viet Hung, Vice Chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, proposed adding regulations that would require drivers to have a license for operating electric vehicles and motorbikes with a capacity under 50 cc, as an amendment to the existing Law on Roadway Traffic.

Once in effect, the rules would also apply to teenagers from 16 to 18 years old.

Associate Professor Bui Thi An, Director of the Institute for Resources, Environment and Community development, emphasized the critical importance of educating minor drivers of electric vehicles about traffic laws through conducting driving tests and issuing licenses.

"In recent years, there has been an increase in traffic accidents caused by drivers below the age of 18, with some resulting in serious repercussions," An said.

According to reports from the Ministry of Transport, by the end of 2023, there were approximately 2.3 million electric motorbikes and mopeds in Vietnam. The sales of these vehicles have surged by 30-35% over the past few years. Notably, students make up the primary user group, as they are exempt from taking a driver’s tests to obtain licenses.

Based on data from the National Traffic Safety Board, 90% of traffic accidents in recent years involve teenagers riding electric vehicles or bikes under 50 cc.

In 2023 alone, nearly 1,000 children under 18 lost their lives, and another 1,300 were injured in traffic accidents. Around 80% of these victims were between 15 and 18 years old and were driving their own vehicles at the time of the event.

Hanoi traffic police issuing fines to students on motorbikes and electric bicycles for not wearing helmets. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Hanoi traffic police issuing fines to students on motorbikes and electric bicycles for not wearing helmets. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Dr Khuong Kim Tao, former Deputy Chief of Office of the National Traffic Safety Committee, also wants to make licenses compulsory for teenage road users.

"Non-compliant operation of electric motorbikes and mopeds under 50cc also instills fear among fellow road users," Tao said.

Tuyet Hanh, having experienced the accident, now approaches electric bikes with heightened vigilance.

Whenever she meets one, she decelerates and maintains a safe distance from the vehicle. "These days I proactively avoid them. It’s better to stay extra alert and protect yourself," said Hanh.

Meanwhile, Trong Nghia took his son’s electric motorbike to a repair shop for custom adjustments, following concerns that his 9th-grade son would ride the vehicle without proper speed control.

He asked the mechanic to limit the maximum speed of the bike to 25-30 km/h, while also making sure the bike horn and lights were all functional.

Additionally, Nghia educated his child about traffic safety, emphasizing the importance of wearing helmets, understanding and following road signs, and using turn signals. "Despite the convenience of transportation vehicles, lack of awareness while driving will inevitably lead to grave consequences," he said.

However, some users of electric motorbikes and mopeds under 50 cc believe that taking a driving license test would be a waste of time and money.

Ngoc Anh, a 17-year-old electric moped user from Cau Giay district, Hanoi, claimed that she would stop using her moped for good if she were required to get a driving license for the vehicle.

"It is too much work. In just one year, I’d have to take another driving test for the motorbike," she remarked.

Ngoc Anh on her electric moped. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nga

Ngoc Anh on her electric moped. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nga

Dr Tao acknowledged the validity of these concerns. Both the Vietnamese Law on Road Traffic (2008) and the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic do not stipulate that drivers of motorcycles with a capacity under 50 cc must obtain a driving license.

He argued that while driving tests give a good opportunity for individuals to equip themselves with traffic laws, their awareness plays an even more crucial role. After all, it’s not the vehicles themselves that are problematic, but rather the behavior of drivers that can lead to issues.

In addition to educational efforts involving families and schools, the expert recommended implementing stringent sanctions on electric moped users, to address violations such as not wearing helmets, running red lights, and excessive speeding.

"Problems related to electric vehicles will be solved if we handle them the same way we crack down on driving under the influence of alcohol," said Dr Tao.

In 2022, Thanh Thuy, a resident of Ha Dong District, spent VND20 million ($806) on an electric motorbike for her son. However, after he collided with a pedestrian while running a red light, the vehicle has remained unused for a year.

Although the victim sustained only minor scratches and did not seek compensation, Thuy is determined to prevent a recurrence, and asked her son to go back to cycling. For longer rides, especially on days with harsh weather, she gives him a ride herself.

Thuy believes this approach ensures safety for both her child and other road users. "If a child has not mastered driving skills and traffic rules, they should refrain from driving on the road," the 40-year-old said.

go to top