It wouldn’t make for uplifting reading, but we could accurately publish an article in every issue with the headline: “Nearly 700 people killed on Vietnam’s roads this month.”
That’s according to the General Statistics Office, which reported the deaths of 5,728 people in the first eight months of 2016. The World Health Organisation estimates that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for Vietnamese citizens aged 15 to 29.
In the face of such statistics and obvious danger, it boggles the mind how people continue to put so little value on life. Young guys swerving around, standing up or wearing nothing on their heads except embarrassing amounts of hair gel.
“Look at how manly and cool we are,” says the cartoon bubble over their heads. “This is definitely the best way to impress girls!”
The girls they’re trying to impress are no better.
New hairstyles or drying hair often swamp the need to wear a helmet. Those who do obey helmet laws often opt for a plastic baseball cap with a hole in the back. This hole is for the remnants of their scrambled brain to leak out of after a crash. Or for their ponytails, I’m not sure.
These girls might be thinking how cute they look, while I am thinking: “Why aren’t they more embarrassed to advertise their stupidity so publicly?”
Here lies the problem. The national psyche needs a major shift. Such behaviours are not cool, cute, manly or no big deal. They are stupid and dangerous.
I therefore present the Four Pillars of Shame. While not a comprehensive list of all the ways people endanger themselves and others on the roads, they are some of the most common examples. Locals and foreigners alike are guilty of many of the sins listed.
If you have committed any of the sins listed even once, it counts. Add up your score and then check the analysis. My own score is 85. I’ve laughed about jumping a red light because of being hungry, and I’ve gone well over the speed limit when there are fewer people around. Pathetic reasons and utterly inexcusable.
I am ashamed of myself. Please join me in evaluating your own shame, and decide; is the risk really worth it?
The First Pillar of Shame: Helmets
10 Driven without a helmet
10 Used a bendy baseball cap helmet
10 Helmet has a hole in back for long hair
10 Helmet costs less than VND1 million
10 Wore a helmet without the straps fastened
5 Helmet says “Hello Kitty” on it
5 Used a dropped or old helmet
5 Used his and hers helmets (points for cringe)
5 Used the excuses “it’s not far” or “drying my hair”
The Second Pillar of Shame: Personal Safety
10 Stood up or swerved needlessly to show off
10 Overtaken someone on the inside
10 Sent a text message while driving
10 Made or taken a call while driving
10 Driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs
10 Exceeded the speed limit
5 Driven on the pavement to avoid queues
5 Driven with earphones listening to music
5 Don’t wear a good quality filtering mask
The Third Pillar of Shame: Lights and Sounds
10 Waited in the wrong lane for your turning direction
10 Jumped a red light
10 Knowingly driven with faulty lights
10 Driven with full beams or headlamp up constantly
5 Delayed traffic at green light dueto being on phone, chatting
5 Parked on street at a traffic light
5 Blocked right turn green light while at a red light
5 Used horn excessively
The Fourth Pillar of Shame: Carrying Loads
10 Carried anything bigger than a large rucksack
10 Carried a bicycle/electric bike/another motorbike
10 Carried a shop/café
10 Carried a fishing rod/spear/similar-shaped object
10 Carried more than three passengers
5 Hung carrier bags from handle bars
5 Carried more than one passenger
5 Carried animals (dead or alive)
0 to 59: You’re practically a saint. Everyone makes a mistake sometimes, but yours are rare and scented with cinnamon and vanilla. You’re a shining beacon of hope we can all look up to.
60 to 149: You should be blushing with shame. Your lack of basic driving skills and road etiquette are troubling, but it’s not too late to change.
150 to 269: You are a daily menace to yourself and those around you. You’re an accident waiting to happen. Your shame is the result of a complete lack of common sense and self-preservation.
270+: You’re dead already. Everyone has moved on, and the huge fatal accident you caused sparked a road safety revolution. An eternity of reading War & Peace in the afterlife is your punishment.