Poor signage has added to the frustration of Ho Chi Minh City's hellacious traffic conditions
A total of 13 signs had been posted in a dense cluster at a section near Sai Gon Bridge that links Binh Thanh District and District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City
Nguyen Huu Long was really upset when he was pulled over and fined by the traffic police for driving his motorcycle up Vo Van Kiet Avenue.
"I entered the mixed lane for motorbikes, buses and trucks to make a right turn," he said, of the busy thoroughfare in Ho Chi Minh City's District 6. "But I was fined for driving in the wrong lane. I paid the fine because I couldn't win the argument with the police."
Buu Phuoc"”another driver who said he'd been fined at the same intersection, on April 29 blamed the action on vague and confusing signage.
"The street sign showed that the furthest right lane was set aside for drivers heading straight. Meanwhile, the designated right turn lane appeared to be located to the left of the straightaway," he said, adding that local residents have dubbed the section the "tricky" street for that reason.
The city's signage problems aren't always so glaring.
But a new disdain for HCMC's official street signs seems to have emerged, in recent times, which holds that most of the city's signage is either unhelpful or misleading.
"The signs make me really dizzy," said Nguyen Tuan Linh, a taxi driver who has been at the job for more than 20 years.
Last week, Thanh Nien polled 100 drivers about their experience of driving in the city.
Eighty percent of respondents claimed that the city's traffic signs only served as "traps."
Nearly all respondents said that street signs were too small and poorly placed.
Seventy-five percent told Thanh Nien that they couldn't discern which signs applied to their lane.
Following the survey, a team of Thanh Nien reporters traveled around the city and found numerous instances of bad signage.
A sign listing vehicles legally allowed to enter the HCMC Trung Luong Highway in Binh Chanh District, was too small to be read by passing motorists, even at low speeds.
A street sign banning cars on District 3's Nguyen Thong Street was obscured by a house, while many signs at the intersection of Truong Son and Cach Mang Thang Tam streets had been obscured by tangles of electric wires.
At a section near Binh Thanh District's Saigon Bridge, a total of 13 signs had been posted in a dense cluster.
"Only God could read all of these signs when driving," one taxi driver complained.
On District 5's Go Cong Bridge (on the eponymous street) a bridge load sign had rusted over, rendering it illegible.
Meanwhile, many drivers complained that there were few one-way street signs along Nguyen Du, Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Vo Van Tan, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Pasteur, Dien Bien Phu, Vo Thi Sau, Le Thanh Ton, Ly Tu Trong, Truong Dinh and Ly Chinh Thang.
Huynh Sang, a radio host at the Voice of HCMC's popular urban traffic program, said he receives an average of roughly 300 complaints every month from drivers about poor road and sign design.
"Many drivers are really frustrated because they are fined for failing to decipher confusing signs," he said.
Sang added that the radio station had forwarded these complaints to the municipal Transport Department's Urban Traffic Management Divisions.
Few appear to have been addressed.
"Some divisions just ignore the complaints we forwarded," he said.
An official at the Urban Traffic Management Division No. 1 admitted they are at fault when poor signage leads to traffic fines.
"The division is responsible for managing the signs and making them visible to drivers," he said.
Dau An Phuc, head of the HCMC Transport Department's Roadway Management Division said that the city has to keep track of hundreds of thousands of street signs and it appreciates citizen reports about problems.
He also said that his division would conduct its own survey and use the information to modify confusing and illogical signage.
DRIVERS URGE OVERHAUL OF CITY SIGNAGE
Professionals have called for a "revolution" in Vietnam's traffic signage following continuous complaints about "tricky" signs.
Luong Hoai Nam, of Hanoi, said he's rented cars and driven in countries all over the world.
Of all the places he's been, Nam says traffic signs in Vietnam are the most problematic.
"They challenge rather than direct drivers," he said.
In many places, the signs are too small or poorly placed, he said. Other experts have called for advanced warning signs at construction sites and other hazardous areas.
"Few drivers deliberately violate traffic law," Nam said. "Meanwhile, many drivers get pulled over without knowing what they've done"”until the traffic police point to some small or obscured sign nearby."
"There should be a revolution in signage," he said.