News / Asia

Vietnam Curbs Traffic to Improve Safety, Air Quality

FILE - A motorist talks on his mobile phone while waiting at a traffic junction in Hanoi in this 2011 photo.
FILE - A motorist talks on his mobile phone while waiting at a traffic junction in Hanoi in this 2011 photo.
Vietnam is attempting to combat the traffic-related problems of crashes and smog.
Traffic accidents are a leading killer here, especially among teenagers.
Roughly 14,000 Vietnamese die each year after a crash, putting this nation of 90 million among the top 10 countries to suffer road-related deaths, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
That figure could come down as Vietnam experiments with ways to get more vehicles off the road and more pollutants out of the air.
The Ministry of Transport has introduced a raft of proposals, from restricting car access to downtown areas, to investing in more sidewalks and electric vehicles, to changing some school and work hours.
That last option, which is meant to reduce traffic during peak hours, has already rolled out in parts of Hanoi, but would expand to Ho Chi Minh City. Each city has more than seven million residents.
Trinh Van Chinh, a consultant for the transport ministry, said the change in hours is inconvenient but necessary.
“We have to help people understand better that this problem is really urgent.” Chinh said in an interview at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Transport, where he also teaches.
Planners hope that by staggering business and school hours, they could cut traffic accidents by as much as 10 percent and cut traffic jams by 30 percent.
Some have criticized and even poked fun at the policy.
Unclogging congestion
But Akira Hosomi, who is helping Vietnam build a metro system through the Japan International Consultants for Transportation, said the policy can succeed because he has seen similar ideas work elsewhere. He said that Singapore charges metro-goers less during non-peak hours in order to control congestion.
Besides bringing the country’s first subway system online in the next few years, the transport ministry wants to get more Vietnamese to use city buses.
In its latest proposals, it suggesting lower fares and free parking at key transit points where commuters could hop onto buses. Signs have gone up around Ho Chi Minh City, urging residents to take the bus.
This would require weaning drivers off the motorbike.
In Vietnam, unlike more industrialized parts of Asia, the motorbike still rules the road. That means drivers here are more exposed to pollution, Hosomi said, not to mention collisions.
“I think the air pollution in Vietnam, specifically Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is getting more serious day by day,” he said.
Hosomi added that the wide availability of cheap fuel contributes to smog. So do four-wheel cars, which is why the government aims to limit them in city centers and charge drivers a fee to go downtown. Officials also want to promote electric vehicles.
Car importers balk
But Horst Herdtle said that shouldn’t mean discouraging traditional cars. Herdtle is CEO of Euro Auto, which imports BMW cars to Vietnam.
He said his cars meet such tough European emission standards before coming to Vietnam that “probably a water buffalo emits more harmful substances than a passenger car.”
The government will have an even tougher time controlling vehicles after 2018, when it’ll have to forgo import duties for vehicles from within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The change is part of further regional integration, including an Asean Economic Community that kicks off in 2015. Vietnam halved the auto import taxes this year which used to mean a buyer paid as much as twice the sticker price of a car.
At the same time, Vietnam has succeeded in some of its mass-media traffic campaigns. A push for drivers to wear helmets has resulted in a 90-percent compliance rate, according to the World Health Organization.
Billboards remind drivers that “Safety comes first” or that this is the “Year of Traffic Safety.”
But environmentalist Phan Ha Vy said there aren’t enough campaigns that look beyond safety to include the environment.
“There’s so much pollution because people aren’t conscious about the environment,” Vy said.
VY lives in Ho Chi Minh City but grew up in Vung Tau, a beach town three hours southeast. She said the streets back home were far cleaner, less crowded; she was more likely to walk outside. Now she rides a motorbike.
“Even if I go for a walk here, there’s too much dust,” she said. “So I really don’t want to go out, it’s hard to tolerate.”
Most Vietnamese deal with the pollution by donning masks.
Many go for walks and exercise outside at the crack of dawn when there are fewer vehicles and the smog hasn’t set in.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Sannidhi from: Hyderabad, India
February 04, 2014 7:23 AM
This is a problem not only with the Vietnam but, around the world. To curb pollution and traffic jams, I think immediate solution is to use public transport(which drastically reduces) and, where it's not possible, it's better if we travel together with others in same vehicle. If 2 people(who drive separate motor bikes) travel in same vehicle, there will be 1 less motor bike on road and hence pollution is 50% lesser. I wonder how much can Govt. and officials do? I think, it's the responsibility of general public too. As people may travel on motor bike, car and cab/taxi, this is where JoinNTravel helps a lot. MUCH BEYOND CARPOOL CONCEPT AND OFFICE HOURS, JoinNTravel is an online platform to help travelers connect with others going by MOTORBIKE, CAR and even by CAB/TAXI! It's 100% free! @

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs