Saving lives on the roads of Viet Nam

WHO lends support to national efforts to make roads safe

November 2012

In the space of two years, 5-year-old Chanh lost both his mother and his father in two separate road crashes.

Every day, more than 30 people die on Viet Nam’s roads. Road traffic injuries are the country’s second leading cause of death. Too often these deaths occur among people in the prime of their lives. Working at global and country level, WHO supports efforts to reduce the number of people dying on the world’s roads.

Enforcement and penalties

Police in Ninh Binh Province administer an alcohol breath test to a local motorist
WHO/Passmore

With a new national strategy and laws that tighten enforcement and penalties for drinking and driving, the Government of Viet Nam has reaffirmed its commitment to improving road safety, saving lives and preventing injuries.

“We aim to reduce road traffic fatalities by between 5 and 10% each year throughout the United Nations Decade for Road Safety, which ends in 2020,” explains Mrs Le Minh Chau, deputy director of traffic safety in Viet Nam’s Ministry of Transport.

Reducing drinking and driving

Key strategies include improving motorcycle safety, reducing drinking and driving, and assuring better care and treatment for the injured.

More than 30% of road traffic fatalities and up to 60% of hospitalized road trauma patients are estimated to have a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit. In November 2012, the Government more than doubled the penalties for drinking and driving.

Police officer Thanh Liem hopes the new penalties will change drivers’ behaviour for the better. “I’ve seen too many crashes caused by drunk drivers,” he says. “Often the drivers were so intoxicated they didn’t realize what they had done.”

Motorcycle helmet laws

95% of vehicles in Viet Nam are motorcycles and the vast majority of riders and passengers wear a helmet
UN Viet Nam\2010\Aidan Dockery

Meanwhile, motorcycle helmet laws introduced in 2007 increased helmet wearing in motorcycle drivers and passengers from 40% to more than 90% within 6 months. Within a year of introducing the laws, more than 1 500 lives had been saved and 2 400 injuries prevented.

WHO support

Over the past five years, WHO has provided technical and financial assistance to improving road safety in Viet Nam, through the Bloomberg Philanthropies funded Road Safety in 10 Countries (RS10) Project. The Organization is currently working with central and provincial government counterparts and international partners (Global Road Safety Partnership and Johns Hopkins University) to improve law enforcement to prevent drinking and driving.

In 2010 and 2011, road traffic mortality rates decreased by 25% and 20% respectively in provinces following the programme. Meanwhile, in a province that did not introduce the programme, road traffic deaths increased by 26%.

Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

A Buddhist spiritual healing ceremony was held as part of Viet Nam’s World Day of Remembrance Campaign, to reflect on those who have been lost or injured on Viet Nam’s roads
NTSC/2012

November 18 is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. In November 2012, Viet Nam organized a month-long road safety campaign, combining home visits to families who have lost loved ones, a traditional Buddhist spiritual healing ceremony and mass media campaigns.

“Reflecting on what has been lost helps people recognize the severe consequences of road traffic crashes. We hope this will bring about changes in road users’ attitudes, behaviour and responsiblity,” says Mr Nguyen Hoang Hiep, the Vice Chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee and primary organizer of the national campaign.

“Few causes of ill-health confronting nations today are as imminently preventable as road traffic injuries,” says Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Representative to Viet Nam. “We commend the Vietnamese Government and its road safety agencies for prioritizing many of the measures needed to tackle this problem head on.”

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