No More Fun Bike Rides For Foreigners
In 2011, Makhov Vladimir Vladimirovich was driving a car in Phan Thiet city, Vietnam, when he crashed into a street vendor, whose injuries proved fatal.
In May 2012, Taiwanese expat, Chen Chang Hao, was driving on the wrong side of the road when his vehicle killed a man in the Binh Duong province.
Later in October, teenager Pat Cullen died in a motorbike accident in Hanoi, a week before his scheduled flight home to Australia.
Then, in November, 42-year-old Gololobov Andrey was taking in the sights at the resort town of Nha Trang when he lost control of his motorbike. His vehicle threw aside some plastic stools on the sidewalk before hitting the wall. According to witnesses, he appeared to be speeding close to 100km/h. The speed limit in that area was 50.
Khanh Hoa province, where Nha Trang is located and where Andrey died, has recently become one of the first few areas to prohibit vehicle rentals to foreigners without a valid Vietnamese driving license. This comes after the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism’s call for all tourism departments to enforce stringent control over motorbike rentals to non-locals. In Khanh Hoa, foreigners who have lived in Vietnam for 3 months and have a valid driving license from their home country can apply for one in Vietnam. However, the tests are conducted in Vietnamese, which makes it exceedingly difficult for tourists just passing through to obtain one. The rule is intended to ensure that foreigners who wish to drive themselves on the local roads have an understanding of local traffic rules.
However, some foreigners have argued that the problems do not stem from their lot alone. Many visitors who have been to Vietnam would agree that motorbikes driven by both locals and foreigners maneuver erratically in traffic, without seeming to follow any set rules. From January to June of 2013, more than 5500 traffic accidents were reported. These resulted in 3465 injuries and 4913 fatalities, a marked 6% and 5% increase respectively from last years statistics.
Still, removing foreign drivers from the roads may seem like the logical course when enforcement in the past had not been effective. Traffic police are usually more reluctant to pull over foreign traffic offenders due to communication difficulties. Even in tragic cases, foreigners appear to be let off with more lenient punishments: in the case of Makhov Vladimir Vladimirovich, he was simply expelled from Vietnam. Chen Chang Hao was just fined USD1410; no jail time, not even probation.