Risky road ahead for Vietnamese motorcyclists
According to Ho Chi Minh City reporter and regular motorcycle commuter Nghiem Cuong, if you can get a handle for traffic in Vietnam, you can manage anywhere.
“If you can drive a car or bike in Vietnam, you can drive anywhere in the world,” Mr Cuong says.
“The transport in Ho Chi Minh City and in Vietnam is quite terrible.
“We have rules but most people don’t follow them and just ride the way they like”.
Vietnam’s roads are amongst the most dangerous in the world with more than 14,000 deaths per year caused by traffic accidents.
Motorcycles and scooters are the most popular means of transport in Vietnam, accounting for 95 per cent of registered vehicles.
Despite breaking his arm twice in two separate road accidents, Mr Cuong says locals accept the risks associated with riding motorbikes.
“Crashes are very frequent here. I see them everyday, especially in rush hour.
“It is very dangerous but we have to get used to it,” he says.
According to the World Health Organisation, road-traffic accidents are the leading cause of death amongst young people aged 15 to 29 years in Vietnam.
In response to increasing road fatality rates, the Vietnamese government enacted compulsory helmet laws in 2007.
Since this change, the rate of motorcycle helmet use has increased from below 30 per cent to more than 95 per cent.
Despite this, road fatality rates remain high with rapid urban population growth and lack of comprehensive law enforcement cited as significant contributing factors.
Mr Cuong says police would often turn a blind eye when it came to individual traffic offences.
“By law, only two people are allowed on a bike but policemen sometimes let people go,” he says.
In Ho Chi Minh City and other urban centres in Vietnam, it is commonplace to see children seated alongside two adults.
Asked how best to cross Vietnam’s infamous roads as a tourist, Mr Cuong says just walk at a steady pace without stopping.
“When the foreigners want to cross the road, they should just go and drivers will avoid them.
“They will not hit you,” he says.