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This picture taken on December 13, 2014 shows youngsters cheering up while drinking beer at a local open-air beer bar in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. - AFP
This picture taken on December 13, 2014 shows youngsters cheering up while drinking beer at a local open-air beer bar in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. - AFP

HANOI: The problem of alcoholism hits Vietnam the hardest.

Together with several Asian countries, the nation has decided to move for heavier punishments in drink-driving cases.

According to vnexpress, emergency wards here on average received 100 to 130 accident victims a day, due to drink driving.

Beer is widely consumed in Vietnam and the country is the biggest alcohol consumer in Southeast Asia.

The Health Ministry’s data showed Vietnamese consumed 305 million litres of liquor and 4.1 billion litres of beer in 2017, making it the third biggest nation in Asia to consume alcoholic beverages after Japan and China.

Drinkers spent an average of US$3.4 billion on alcohol per year, or three per cent of the government’s budget revenue, according to official data.

The ministry said this translated to US$300 per person, while its statistics on the spending on related health issues averaged US$113 per person.

The World Health Organisation said 40 per cent of traffic accidents or about 79,000 deaths were linked to excessive drinking, an alarming rate for a country where road crashes on average kill a person every hour, said vnexpress and Bloomberg.

“More than 80 per cent of the nation’s drinkers are men.

“Alcohol abuse is leading to increasing social harms, including vehicle accidents, domestic violence and social disorder,” said Le Thi Thu, a manager with the Hanoi-based HealthBridge Foundation of Canada.

To tackle the problem, Vietnam approved the Law on Preventing Alcohol Harmful Effects, which took effect on Jan 1.

The new law sees cyclists and electric motorbike rider face fines of between US$17 and US$26, while motorcyclists and car drivers could be fined between US$258 and US$345, and US$1,292 and US$1,723 respectively, double the old levels.

Those caught driving under the influence of alcohol could also have their driving licence suspended up to two years.

The new law requires alcohol advertisements to include health warnings and that stores must place notices which state that alcoholic beverages must not be sold to those below the age of 18.

The crackdown on drink driving saw the Public Security Ministry’s Traffic Department issuing fines totalling US$905 million in 6,279 cases early last month, said Vietnam News.

A series of fatal accidents involving drunk drivers last year, including one in which a photo of boy weeping next to his dead mother’s body spread on social media, had led to a protest here against lenient alcohol laws.

The harsher penalties against drink driving has decreased the number of road accident patients in the nation’s hospitals.

In Malaysia, the authorities have stated their intent to impose heavier penalties for offences related to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as reckless driving.

As for Taiwan, the authorities last year had planned to ramp up punishments for those who cause a fatal accident while drink driving, including implementing death penalty for the worst of cases.

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