|No space on the road? Just ride on the footpath!|
We're into week number two with our own car and driver.
At only 22 years old, our new driver Mr Long is just a baby but so far he has impressed me with his cautious attitude to driving.
Unlike many of the taxi drivers in this city he doesn't constantly sit on his horn (only using it to warn motorbike riders who stray into our path) or overtake in an aggressive manner i.e overtaking for no other reason than the need to be in front of someone else!
So tonight I was surprised when my housekeeper told me he was pulled over by the police and fined for a traffic infringement on the way to school this afternoon.
Oh no! I immediately thought my high opinion of Mr Long was going to be crushed. Was he only behaving while I was in the car?
When I learned he was fined 700,000VND (that's about USD36) for not using his indicator when changing lanes on the highway I was shocked!
Seriously? This is the city where motorbike riders travel on the footpath because they can't be bothered waiting in the peak hour traffic! Surely footpath driving endangers more lives than someone who forgets to indicate a lane change?
I am impressed that the police seem to be trying to make the roads safer (even though the cynic in me knows it's really just revenue raising and unfortunately, in many cases, an opportunity for individual police to line their own pockets).
Unfortunately for Mr Long, sitting on the highway and pulling over drivers who do the wrong thing is the easiest way for police to teach locals that flouting the rules has consequences (because obviously trying to do that in the District 1 peak hour traffic is just going to cause further road chaos).
Vietnam's reputation has been marred by stories of police on the take who shake down the drivers for cash and pocket bribes in order to let offenders go without a huge penalty.
Not sure whether Mr Long refused, or whether he was just lucky enough to get the new breed of policeman who knows that many drivers are unlikely to risk their job by paying a cash bribe.
Either way, this was one of those "official" fines where Mr Long will have to report to the police station next week and hand over the cash to get his licence back.
As sad as I am for our driver (USD36 is a lot of money for his family) this is a good lesson for him to learn and a small step towards teaching the newest generation of Vietnamese drivers a hard lesson in road safety.