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Fatal inaction
Thursday,  1/17/2019, 21:38 

Fatal inaction

By Son Nguyen

Every day, over 50 traffic accidents occur nationwide. Every day, some 22 are killed and nearly 40 injured on the road, besides huge material damages and medical costs. Still, little has been done to contain the tragedy inflicted on society.

Such data were given by Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The at a review meeting of the ministry in Hanoi last Friday, according to the news site Mot The Gioi. The minister urged relevant agencies to fathom the pros and cons of taking tough measures against traffic-rule violators, including criminal prosecution against transport enterprises showing irresponsibility in employing drivers, and permanent revocation of driver’s licenses from those causing fatal accidents. Such proposals, especially the tough one against drivers, get widespread support.

The proposal over permanent revocation of driver’s licenses, in fact, surfaces after a tragic accident half month ago when a container truck driver rammed his vehicle into numerous motorcycle riders waiting at a red light in Long An Province’s Ben Luc District, killing four and injuring 18 others. Tests that followed showed the driver had drug and alcoholic traces in his blood samples, which prompts a firestorm in local media on the ineffective enforcement of the law in fighting the abuse of drug and alcohol among many drivers. Relevant agencies, according to the local media, have almost done nothing to counter such crimes over the years.

Driving under influence is not a new issue, but it is only revisited after the fatal accident in Long An, says vov.vn, the news site of the Voice of Vietnam radio station. Citing a driver in HCMC’s District 12, the news site says many drivers have resorted to drug and alcoholic drinks to keep them awake as they are required by transport firms to work long hours beyond their normal physical capacity.

Nguyen Duy Phuc, a container truck driver, admits in Tuoi Tre that there are many sleep-deprived drivers using alcoholic drinks or doing drugs to stay awake, as they have to cover long distances for days on end. Such driving under influence often leads to carelessness and even accidents.

Colonel Tran Son, formerly an official with the Traffic Police Department, says in Tuoi Tre that this is an existential threat. A survey six years ago showed “up to 30% of container truck drivers tested positive for drugs, but the transport sector over the years has failed to cope with this problem,” he is quoted as saying.

The problem has in fact persisted for decades. The news site Vietnamnet, also citing Colonel Tran Son, says that a check on 12,000 drivers in Daklak Province ten years ago revealed nearly half tested positive for drugs. Meanwhile, another survey by the healthcare sector six years ago showed a drug-positive rate of 40%.

And the problem today remains highly alarming.

Nghe An Province’s Department of Transport said in a report last Thursday that among 900 drivers joining a test last month, 10% were found positive for drugs, according to the news site Vnexpress.net.

Hanoi City’s Department of Transport has also rolled up its sleeves, urging all transport firms in the capital city to examine all drivers, with a special focus on drug abuse. All tests must be completed prior to the end of February, and any drivers testing positive to drugs must be laid off, Tien Phong report, citing a document from the transport department.

Meanwhile, right after the fatal accident stated above, HCMC traffic police have launched a campaign to conduct unannounced inspections of truck drivers around a port complex in Thu Duc District. In the first two days this week, HCMC police officers conducted quick tests on 48 container truck drivers, and found seven positive for drugs, according to Thanh Nien.

“That is frightening for the society when quick tests at a port complex in HCMC show up to 14% of drivers do drugs,” says Vnexpress.net. Echoing the Minister of Transport’s proposal to revoke licenses of those drivers causing grave accidents, the news site says the licenses of addicted drivers should be revoked for good, since “statistics show 90% of addicts cannot relinquish drugs.”

However, there are also concerns such a measure contradicts the law.

Bui Danh Lien, former chair of the Hanoi City Transport Association, says in Dat Viet that the minister’s proposal may face objection as it infringes on people’s right to employment.

Decree 46 of the Government only allows for a revocation of driver’s licenses for a maximum period of six months, so there is no legal basis for stripping violating drivers of licenses permanently, says the news site nongnghiep.vn. In addition, according to the news site, stripping drivers of licenses will also take away their job opportunities and thus violate the Constitution which ensures all people have the right to employment.

Addressing such concern, Lao Dong brushes aside worries over the job opportunities for such drivers and their right to employment. “Those people should look for other jobs, as they must be banned from those jobs whereby they have shown disrespect to other people’s lives,” says the paper in a commentary. “Why shouldn’t we revoke their driver’s licenses permanently, bearing in mind that those drivers have taken the lives of others?” stresses the paper.

In Nguoi Lao Dong, Lawyer Truong Anh Tu of the Hanoi Bar Association also approves the tough measure, saying those drivers who have violated traffic rules causing serious accidents should not be allowed to continue their jobs. A doctor’s carelessness causing a death results in his or her professional certificate revoked, so “there is no reason why a careless driver should not be treated the same,” the lawyer gives comparison in the paper.

Voicing support for the minister’s suggestion, vov.vn says “as long as drug addicts are sitting behind the wheel, many innocent lives are still under threat.” Therefore, there must be a strong solution to the problem, says the media outlet.

In many countries worldwide, while employment is a right, it cannot be mistaken for a privilege. Driving is seen as a privilege that can be stripped off, not a right that is naturally owned.

Therefore, according to Lao Dong, without tough measures against violating drivers, traffic accidents will remain a national crisis.

The problem of drug and alcohol abuse among drivers has persisted for years, but it is the inaction of relevant agencies that is to blame for many fatal traffic accidents. Numerous strong measures have been proposed but few have been adopted, according to Lao Dong. “Don’t let another tough measure be forgotten while traffic accidents are still killing people every hour and every day,” says the paper.

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