A plague on our roads

PHOTO: AFP   Commuters are caught in a traffic jam on a road caused by construction works on an elevated freeway in Hanoi. It was reported 339 road traffic accidents happened in Vietnam during the first week of June, leaving 151 dead and 232 injured.PHOTO: AFP Commuters are caught in a traffic jam on a road caused by construction works on an elevated freeway in Hanoi. It was reported 339 road traffic accidents happened in Vietnam during the first week of June, leaving 151 dead and 232 injured.

I was gutted on hearing that Dr. Nishimura Masanari, a Japanese archeologist who has spent 23 years working in Vietnam, died in a traffic accident on June 9.

He was riding a motorbike from Hanoi to an excavation cite in the northern city of Hai Phong when the accident happened.

As someone who has known and loved him and his family for years, this is devastating.

After more than 20 years of dedication to Vietnam’s history and archeology, Nishimura has now left his valuable work unfinished, because of a traffic accident.

About seven years ago, Seymour Papert, mathematician, computer scientist, and educator with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fell into a coma after an accident in Hanoi. The famous professor was struck by a motorbike when he was crossing a busy street near the Hanoi University of Technology.

When Papert’s family came to Hanoi to bring him home for treatment, they were so frightened of the capital city’s traffic that they caught a taxi just to cross a street.

Vietnam has spent years building its image as a friendly and peaceful country to attract international tourists and investors, but the fact that traffic accidents are causing more casualties than in some wars is badly affecting the national image.

Who wants to go to a country where they fear they can be injured, or worse, killed, in a traffic accident anywhere and anytime?

In fact, no one in Vietnam can claim that they are immune from traffic accidents, because here, it is a fact that whether you are walking, riding a motorbike or a car, or simply sitting on a bus, there are chances that accidents will befall you.

In the latest cases, just over three days between June 7 and 9, 16 people were killed and nearly 60 injured in four accidents.

On June 7, a bus carrying a group of teachers and their families from the central city of Da Nang slammed into a mountainside near the resort town of Nha Trang. Seven people were killed, and 22 were injured.

Two days later another bus went off the National Road 1’s section in the central province of Quang Nam when the driver was trying to avoid a collision with a motorbike. The bus of the famed Mai Linh transport company turned over as it fell, leaving three people dead and 30 injured.

That same day a truck crashed into two motorbikes in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, killing six people from two families.

Several hours later, a bus belonging to Phuong Trang, another prestigious transport company, fell into a canal next to a National Road 1 stretch in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang. Six passengers and a man who was riding a motorbike at that time were hospitalized with injuries.

According to the Department of Transport Police, 339 road traffic accidents happened during the first week of June that left 151 dead and 232 injured.

Across the nation, more than 12,000 accidents have killed 4,163 people and injured nearly 12,200 in the five months of this year, the department has reported.

While the casualties are counted by state agencies and published in detailed reports, no one can calculate all of their consequences. Besides the great sadness caused by the loss of their beloved, numerous families suffer financially, and this kind of suffering will last many years later.

Now, when international scientists are dying on our roads, the consequences of traffic accidents are unimaginable.

Authorities have organized a lot of conferences, announced a lot of plans and made a lot of promises to tackle the plague of traffic accidents. But people are still being killed in large numbers.

When will this disaster stop?

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