Vietnam has road deaths epidemic: WHO

HANOI (AFP) – The World Health Organisation on Wednesday called for Vietnam to minimise the country’s huge human loss in traffic accidents, which has become a national epidemic.

Vietnam reports one of the world’s highest road death tolls, with 33 fatalities a day, resulting in more than 12,300 victims last year, according to the National Traffic Safety Committee.

“Traffic accidents in Vietnam have reached epidemic proportions,” said Hans Troedsson, WHO director in Vietnam, at a Hanoi conference to launch the inaugural United Nations Global Road Safety Week.

“Road safety is not just a public health issue, but an economic and social issue,” he said, citing an Asian Development Bank estimate that 885 million dollars is lost from Vietnam’s economy every year because of traffic accidents.

There is widespread disregard for regulations and speed limits throughout the communist country.

Few of the 85 million population wear helmets although there are about 18 million registered motorbikes on the streets. Authorities have repeatedly tried to encourage the helmet wearing habit but encountered public refusal.

“Vietnam needs to make helmet use mandatory on all roads and effectively enforce it,” Troedsson said, considering it one of the most significant measures to reduce human loss and head injuries.

About 40 percent of the country’s total severe road traffic crashes have been caused by youths aged between 15 and 24, who account for 20 percent of the population, he added.

Transport minister Ho Nghia Dung quoted a survey by Ho Chi Minh City’s Cho Ray hospital, saying about 85 percent of traffic accidents have involved motorcyclists.

The UN Global Road Safety Week targets young road users.

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