Saturday 3 November 2012

Road safety, Vietnamese style

Yes, still harping on about Vietnamese traffic - it made that big an impression on me, you see. Not, fortunately, physically, though the same can't be said for the 31 people who apparently die on the roads there every day. There are all sorts of figures if you go Googling, and I'm no statistician, but some of them look pretty official, and are very interesting. There's a list, for example, of world annual road fatalities per 100,000 vehicles: New Zealand is 11, the UK is 7, the US 15 - and Viet Nam? 1,238. (To put that in perspective, though, most of the African nations are much higher in the thousands, with Togo at 14,050 - remind me never to go there - while Malta and Iceland are lowest at 5.)

But back to Viet Nam (they prefer it spelled as two words, incidentally, though the rest of the world seems to ignore that). Helmets have been made compulsory, and we were told it's the equivalent of a US$10 fine if you're caught without one - but only after the age of 8, children's heads being apparently less vulnerable. Or valuable. Anyway, that's all very well, except that most of the helmets worn would be less use than a colander with a chinstrap, being made of thin plastic (but with cool Burberry or Ralph Lauren patterns on the sides); and many of the girls choose ones with an open slot up the back to accommodate their pony-tails. Can you see the one in the photo below? (Note also the cat's cradle of electricity cables strung from that lamp-post - absolutely typical.)
Other points to note in the photo below: phone use while in motion (texting also seen); even pedestrians ignoring the zebra crossing as nothing more meaningful than paint on the road; family of three in the centre; face masks (available shaped, padded and in nattily-patterned fabrics); someone blithely riding the wrong way along the street. It's a circus, it really is.

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