Killers on the road
Terrifying numbers resurface when authorities nationwide converge each year to look into the country’s road traffic situation. Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands injured, and an innumerable amount of properties destroyed despite efforts to contain the tragic situation.
Traffic accidents continue to kill, with the number of casualties in 2016 showing no signs of abating, according to data from the national conference on traffic safety organized this Wednesday. Minister of Transport Truong Quang Nghia admits that the 2016 targets to bring down the numbers of accidents and casualties have failed, according to Tuoi Tre. During the year, over 21,500 traffic accidents occurred nationwide, killing 8,685 people and crippling over 19,000 others, which are more or less the same as in 2015, according to Thanh Nien.
In the three-day New Year holiday last week alone, as many as 79 people were killed in traffic accidents nationwide. Traffic police in the holiday tackled nearly 10,000 violation cases, and imposed fines of over VND8 billion.
Lao Dong, in an editorial, says no modern wars in the world nowadays have seen such a high number of casualties like traffic accidents in Vietnam, asserting the country is facing a traffic catastrophe when scores of people die in traffic accidents each day in Vietnam.
Many news outlets have quickly pointed to the poor compliance to traffic regulations on the part of both law enforcement officers and the general public. Road users for the most part are still ignoring traffic regulations, from speeding and drink driving to even crossing the red lamp or riding on one-way streets the wrong direction, putting their lives at risk.
Meanwhile, many traffic police officers readily skip even grave violations in exchange for illegal gains, or upon intervention from certain people.
Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, at the aforesaid conference, demands that the rule of law be enforced, putting an end to illegal practices between traffic police and road violators. The deputy prime minister, who also serves as chair of the National Traffic Safety Commission, urges authorities to slap stern punishments and eradicate the situation of “sharing the fine” between traffic police officers and violators, Tuoi Tre reports.
At the conference, the National Traffic Safety Commission in a report stresses that over 70% of traffic accidents stem from the lack of awareness among drivers. Meanwhile, the HCMC police put this rate at over 90%. However, awareness is only part of the problem.
Lao Dong says traffic accidents may happen to anyone in the absence of respect of the law. “Anyone can fall victim to traffic accidents. We can be victims, and can also be culprits,” the paper stresses, calling on the public to abide by traffic rules.
In an editorial, Tuoi Tre ponders how to build a culture of compliance in traffic circulation. The paper says that while it is easy to blame chaotic vehicle traffic on the poor awareness, this problem in turn takes root in the absence of the rule of the law.
“Building a culture of traffic awareness for one and all the people requires fulfilling the minimum condition of legal compliance first before achieving the maximum merit of traffic ethics. Therefore, the traffic awareness must start from ensuring the traffic law to be fully observed without exceptions,” says Tuoi Tre.
The newspaper gives an example that private cars with white number plates will be subject to harsh fines for speeding, while vehicles with blue number plates belonging to State agencies will enjoy leniency even in more serious violations. Under such cases, it is impossible to educate people to respect traffic rules. Therefore, the first thing to do is to safeguard the integrity of law enforcement officials, i.e. traffic police.
From another angle, Lao Dong advises readers to change their habit to using commuter buses instead of private vehicles so as to cut down on the number of traffic accidents on one hand and help restore traffic order on the other.
According to the newspaper, the general public does not readily accept new traffic solutions introduced by authorities, as seen in the case of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system just inaugurated in Hanoi. In the past few days, as BRT vehicles operate, many road users have ignored instructions, encroaching on the lane reserved for the buses. Even worse, there have emerged strong protests from many people, saying that in a crowded city like Hanoi, it is unacceptable to organize the BRT system.
The newspaper reasons that while traffic congestion and accidents are the number-one concern of city dwellers, many people are not willing to lend a helping hand by advocating public transport. Commenting that no cities can map out feasible transport plans if all residents resort to private vehicles, the paper urges the public to “help the new bus route survive and develop instead of stoning it to death.”
The National Traffic Safety Commission at the conference announced new targets for 2017: cutting down the number of traffic accidents by between 5% and 10% compared to 2016.
Without drastic measures, killers on the road will still prevail. Killers are traffic accidents as a matter of fact, but they are also the lack of traffic awareness and the absence of respect of the law.
The Saigon Times Daily