Alcohol, drugs and driving simply do not go together. Driving requires a person’s attentiveness and the ability to make quick decisions on the road, to react to changes in the environment and execute specific, often difficult maneuvers behind the wheel. When drinking alcohol, using drugs, or being distracted for any reason, driving becomes dangerous – and potentially lethal!
- An estimated 32% of fatal car crashes involve an intoxicated driver or pedestrian. (NHTSA)
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those crashes involve an underage drinking driver. (SAMHSA)
- On average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. (NHTSA)
Problem in Vietnam and Asian countries
Vietnam has high rates of drink-driving among young taxi drivers, workers and learner drivers and very high rates of young people having travelled as a passenger alongside a drunk driver. The country is known as having a much higher alcohol consumption rate than in other countries like Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Thailand (Huu Bich, et al. 2009). Drinking patterns in Vietnam are higher due to the cultural practice of drinking alcohol as a means for strengthening friendship and sharing4.
According the Ministry of Health (2009), injuries are the 10th leading cause of death for people of all ages, road traffic fatalities account for half of those deaths and alcohol involvement in road traffic crashes remains high. The police statistics indicated that drinking alcohol was a contributory factor in 7% of motor vehicle crashes. Major General Nguyen Van Tuyen, head of the Road and Railway Traffic Police Department confirmed that, according to preliminary statistics, there were 80% of traffic violations in the country related to driving under the influence of alcohol, and 30% of deaths are related to drinking liquor or beer. Moreover, a study showed that there was 60.2% of respondents indicating a history of drinking and driving; another study indicated that over 10% of traffic road crashes were caused by alcohol which was detected in 62% of the victims (Lachenmeier et al. 2009); and another study stated over 90% of the respondents reported awareness of the dangerous risk there was with drinking and driving; however 80% said they would still drive after drinking and 58% stated they would be a passenger with a motorcycle rider after he or she had been drinking as well (Nguyen, 2010).
Social & Economic Costs
According to a study done by the United Kingdom-based Transport Research Laboratory, the global economic burden of road traffic collisions comes to an estimated $518 billion annually. In Vietnam, traffic injuries are a huge economic burden to families and communities. The country loses an estimated 2.9% of its GDP, or US$3.9 billion, to traffic accidents related to drinking and driving in 2012. A recent estimate by the World Bank states that road traffic crashes could cost the country $885 million compared to the country’s GDP of $60 billion and there were 60% of patients that receive traumatic brain injuries are never able to return back to work, which is essentially hurting the economics in Vietnam even further.
The 2013 constitution permits the confiscation of vehicles under Clause 21 of the Law on Handling Administrative Violations in Vietnam, specifically with drunk driving, may reduce the number of accidents (VNS, 2015). Another proposed solution to think about is making offenders perform community service. There are different community based interventions that are used as a solution, such as a designated driver and ride service programs. Enforce programs that are used to educate the public about drinking and driving risks.
Who has been addressing the issue and how-description of current projects?
Safe Roads 4youths (SR4Y) works in training and working with young people in High Schools, Universities, and driving schools. The young people that help design and implement various prevention activities. “My story,” where victims of road safety crashes share their experiences through workshops and social media. Emotive theater appearances are based on consequences of drunk-driving. Increased interaction between the police and public transport workers regarding traffic laws and sanctions related to alcohol. They create short films related to the topic of alcohol (SR4Y, 2015).
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) uses a campaign to eliminate drunk driving. They work with law enforcers and assist with supporting one of the most effective enforcement tools, sobriety checkpoints, which are proven to reduce fatalities by 20 percent. Law enforcers check vehicles for drunk driver and are conduct checkpoints during times when alcohol-impaired drivers are most likely to be on the roads. They also support the requirement of ignition interlock devices, in-car breathalyzer’s, for all drunk drivers to prove they are sober before their car will start (MADD, 2015).
Success and challenges
There is success in Vietnam with current enhancements in inspections nationwide. Also there has been an increase in confiscation of vehicles as a punishment but due to the increase of motorbike vehicles on the road, it has become harder for law enforcers to control drunk drivers and enforce punishments (VNS, 2015). If vehicles were to be confiscated for drunk driving, vehicles would have to be recorded, stored, transferred, auctioned or destroyed, and all these steps require money, man-power and time. For poor families, a motorbike might be the most valuable property they own and if there vehicle were to be confiscated for getting caught drinking and driving once, they can fall back into poverty. More severe punishments are more likely to cause under-the-table deals and corruption would ran rampant (VNS, 2015).
Recommendations – What does Vietnam Need?
Although other countries apply measures such as, confiscating vehicles, it will be difficult to implement it immediately in Vietnam. It is a mistake to think accidents will drop if there are heavier punishments, Vietnam would need to require years and years to educate the public on the issue. Vietnam can start slowly by educating the public through campaign advertising, such as billboards, events in school-based promotional events, or television/radio advertising. Vietnam needs more law enforcers on the road for this specific issue.
Greig Craft, President of AIP Foundation (www.aip-foundation.org)
 Tran NT., 2012. Drinking and driving in Vietnam: Public knowledge, attitudes and practices. Traffic Inj Prev. 2012;13 Suppl 1:37-43. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2011.636779. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ 22414127.