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Sunday,  Oct 21,2018,12:05 (GMT+7)

Blind driving

Son Nguyen
Friday,  Apr 6,2018,21:15 (GMT+7)
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Blind driving

Son Nguyen

The visibility was blurred when smoke from haystacks and straw being burned on the field pervaded a section of HCMC-Long Thanh-Dau Giay Expressway this Tuesday, causing a multiple-vehicle collision as drivers receiving no warnings rammed their autos into one another. The blame game ensued, as covered in local media.

Around ten vehicles collided with one another in the expressway section some 20 kilometers from HCMC, resulting in severe injuries for several passengers, while the vehicles were badly damaged. As related by the drivers, their visibility suddenly neared zero when the thick smoke on the field along the road was fanned by the wind towards the expressway. There were no warnings for drivers from whosoever, including radio traffic news, while the expressway operator only learned of the smoke after the accident had occurred. One direction of the expressway was then closed to traffic, and ambulances, traffic police and local authorities later rushed to the scene for rescue efforts.

The good luck is that there were no fatalities in the accident despite huge damages. However, numerous questions surface over who are to be held responsible, and whether such a serial collision could be avoided in the future.

As widely covered in local media, many vehicles were driving on the expressway near the interline with National Highway 51 when smoke from the farms nearby turned thick at around 2:30 p.m. A minibus of Toan Thang whose driver was apparently blinded by the smoke crashed into a petrol tank truck, while several other autos on the other lane in the opposite direction also collided with one another, according to Dan Tri. Eight vehicles were damaged, with some disfigured, while four passengers sustained bad injuries.

Many have quickly pointed the finger at farmers who burned straw and hay to prepare for the new crop as the rainy season is expected to come soon. Other people blame the drivers for high speed when facing a risky situation, while many legal experts stress the expressway operator – and the traffic law to a certain extent – should be responsible for the accident.

Tran Huu Minh, an official with the National Committee for Traffic Safety, says in Lao Dong that any behavior that affects visibility on an expressway is a violation of the law. More specifically, lawyer Nguyen Anh Thom from Hanoi says in the newspaper that farmers have done it wrong when burning straw and waste on the field, as such an action not only pollutes the environment and affects people’s health, but also hinders drivers’ visibility on the road. In this case, the farmers’ action has indirectly led to accidents. “Such an action is punishable, as prevailing regulations ban people from deliberately burning waste, garbage or poisonous substances in public places or in residential areas,” the lawyer is quoted by the newspaper.

While it is generally agreed that the accident stems from smoke caused by farmers, several lawyers assert that the drivers should be blamed for the accident, and the expressway operator must also be held responsible, according to Tuoi Tre.

When seeing thick fog or smoke that affects visibility, drivers must turn on emergency lights and pull over into the emergency lane, says lawyer Bui Quoc Tuan from the HCMC Bar Association in Tuoi Tre. The lawyer, who himself stopped his car at the accident site, emphasizes that the drivers should be totally responsible for the accident.

Meanwhile, lawyer Bui Quang Nghiem says all sides are to blame, but the expressway operator should be held accountable as well. “The drivers saw the smoke from afar, but they did not choose the safety option. However, the expressway operator was faulty in that they did not immediately take preventive solutions by issuing warnings to drivers,” he is quoted in the paper.

Similarly, lawyer Nguyen Anh Thom affirms that authorities should probe the expressway operator for their responsibility, in this case dereliction of duty.

“Since this is a toll road, the expressway operator is responsible to ensure good traffic conditions for drivers,” Thom argues in Lao Dong. According to the lawyer, when seeing smoke via the camera system, the expressway operator must take measures to warn all drivers of the danger. But the operator failed to do that in this case.

In news site Vnexpress.net, lawyer Nguyen Minh Tuong from Ba Ria-Vung Tau puts the expressway operator first on the blaming list. Invoking Circular 90/2015 of the Ministry of Transport, the lawyer states that the expressway operator must regularly patrol the road and ensure safety for road users. Those who patrol the road must promptly uncover any abnormal situations or dangers on the road and duly report, says the lawyer.

Lawyer Tran Quoc Dung from HCMC agrees on the point. “The people pay the toll fee to use the high-speed road, which is regarded as a service contract. Therefore, they must be guaranteed with safety when using the road,” he is quoted as saying in the news site.

Nguoi Lao Dong ponders why the expressway operator only cares about toll collections while leaving the risks to road users. According to the paper, thick smoke has often been fanned to the expressway in recent times, but the operator has never issued any warnings to drivers.

Also according to Nguoi Lao Dong, expressways are a new type of transport infrastructure, but regulations for travelling on such roads have not been issued to govern behaviors of all relevant parties and to establish their responsibilities.

Similarly, Tran Huu Minh from the National Committee for Traffic Safety says in Lao Dong that the country’s expressway network is expanding quickly, but many people, including drivers, road operators, local authorities and management agencies, have not caught up with such development. Minh stresses that relevant parties should look into all possible causes behind the accident, and amend regulations and processes or issue new ones to control risks on expressways.

Following the accident, temporary solutions are being taken, including efforts by grassroots authorities to discourage farmers along the expressway from causing hazardous situations. But the risks are still there, from cattle sneaking into the expressway to strange objects thrown or dropped by others on the road that may trigger deadly accidents any time.

If people’s awareness is not improved, and legal procedures for expressway traffic are not updated, blind driving will continue, and deadly accidents will occur, sooner or later.

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