Welcome to Hanoi's traffic...
  • | dtinews.vn | December 24, 2009 11:51 AM

After four day's in Hanoi, I have braved the traffic for the third time. Now, as a Hanoian, or an ex-pat having lived here for a long time, you might scoff at the notion of driving in Hanoi as being "brave". However, I can tell you now, Hanoi's traffic is intimidating. I've dealt with the traffic of Bangkok, Los Angeles, Pnom Penh, Miami, Manila, Jakarta, Seoul, Mexico City, and many other locales around the globe, so why was I slightly intimidated here?

I suppose it seems as if there is no order, no lanes, no rules, everybody just drives and honks, yet, somehow it seems to work. So as my experience of Hanoi continues, traffic is one thing that is now off the list. I still find it amazing how it works, or that it even does work, but it does. After a few attempts, I've realised that what looks like madness and mayhem is actually quite organised. It's sort of like a bee-hive, it looks crazy, with all those bees scattering around, but they are all working together. Despite my initial apprehension, after being in the traffic, I came to understand that people are actually quite courteous and friendly on the road. This got me to thinking, "Just how safe is it to drive in Hanoi?"

I started researching some statistics and found them difficult to come by. I know many Vietnamese colleagues and friends who have been in, or know someone who has been in a serious accident. The International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD) keeps and shares information about traffic accidents around the world. They held a summit in Seoul during September of this year. According to Nguyen Hoang Hai of the Vietnam, Hanoi Department of Transport, who represented Vietnam at the summit, "As recently as 2007, of the 712 traffic accidents reported in Hanoi, 457 were fatal." That's 39 percent of accidents resulting in a fatality. Nguyen also noted, "Accident data capture in Hanoi is still insufficient and analysis criteria have not been fully established."

The report also mentions the difficulty of understanding the actual statistics because essentially, there is no single database established to analyse these statistics. "In Hanoi, traffic safety management bodies’ functions remain fragmental (distributed to many entities) and not converged. As a result, responsibilities for safety and accident statistics are also divided and remain trivial. While you may be comfortable, remain aware because there is no way to know just how safe it is to drive in Hanoi.

* Write to David Cornish at davidcornish@dtinews.com

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