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Fines, Bans, Ukuleles: Vietnamese Authorities Finally Get Strict on Drink-Driving

 

On January 1, Vietnam enacted legislation that makes operating any motorbike, car or bicycle with a blood alcohol level over zero illegal. Authorities have been swift to respond.

Driving after having a few drinks is not an uncommon practice in Vietnam. However, the frequency with which alcohol-related accidents occur is worrying.

Under the new law, car drivers who drive while drunk can be fined up to VND40 million and have their license revoked for two years, while motorbike drivers can be fined VND8 million and also lose their license.

Tuoi Tre reports that bicyclists will also be fined VND400,000–600,000 if they are discovered cycling after drinking alcohol from January 1.

The strict penalties are aimed at curbing Vietnam's high drunk driving rates and ensuing traffic accidents. More than two-thirds of drinkers prefer to drive themselves home after drinking, so when faced with the consequences of the new law, some have opted to avoid going out to drink altogether.

The effects of skipping night time drinking sessions have hit local businesses hard. VnExpressreported this morning that restaurant and beer club sales have fallen by 50%. 

In response to the law, and following a decline in customers due to motorbike drivers’ fear of being caught by police, bars and restaurants across the country are offering transportation services for patrons. 

Tuoi Tre reports that establishments serving alcohol have since introduced a variety of services to allow customers to drink and return home without breaking the law. 

To entice customers to continue drinking, bars and restaurants are offering to drive customers home, and in some cases providing discounts for ride-hailing services or taxis and allowing for overnight parking. A beer joint in Thu Duc has mobilized some staff members to help intoxicated patrons home.

“We have a team of employees to take you home. All you have to do is enjoy the time with your friends and family at our restaurant. Your safety is our top priority,” a notice at one establishment reads.

According to VnExpress, a South Korean man named Choi Won-ouk was one of the first to be caught drunk driving. He was handed a fine of VND35 million (US$1,500) and had his license revoked for a period of just under two years.

Between January 1, when nationwide enforcement of the law began, and January 4, 668 drunk drivers were fined a total of roughly VND890 million (US$38,350), according to Nguyen Quang Nhat, an officer with the traffic police department under the Ministry of Public Security.

While critics contend the laws are too strict or ineffective, officials are quick to point out that similar laws are more severe in many other countries, and can include jail time. Moreover, to further address the issue, the penalties are also supported by education efforts, stringent regulations on advertising, and alcohol tax increases.

One of the more comical stories to emerge on the topic was about a Russian man who, after being stopped by police for not wearing a helmet, started playing a ukulele. Police then breathalyzed the man, named Aleks Ivanov, but found no traces of alcohol. 

Ivanov was instead given a VND300,000 fine (US$13) for driving without a helmet and another VND1,200,000 (US$52) for not presenting a driver’s license. 

On the bright side, hospitals in Hanoi have already announced fewer traffic accident-related admissions

[Top photo via Needpix]