HCMC authorities seek to charge drunk drivers as criminals

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Ho Chi Minh City authorities have asked the National Assembly's Law Committee to study the possibility of making drunk driving a criminal offense.

At a committee meeting on Thursday, Nguyen Huu Tin, vice chairman of the HCMC People's Committee said that driving under the influence of alcohol is "one act that directly threatens others' life and property, but we do not press criminal charges against drunk drivers.

"Meanwhile, other countries are doing so," Tin said.

Vietnam's current laws stipulate that acts which "directly" threaten life and property merit criminal charges, but right now drunk drivers only pay fines, VnExpress quoted him as saying. 

According to Tin, last year the city reported more than 5,000 drunk driving cases. That figure appears to be declining this year but drunk driving fatalities continue to persist.

The municipal authorities have also proposed increasing traffic fines.

Prior to the meeting Ngo Minh Chau, vice director of the HCMC Police Department said that drunk driving was among the seven principal causes of serious traffic accidents in the city.

The police official also asked related agencies to consider pressing criminal charges in such cases.

Under Vietnamese law, drivers with blood alcohol levels of between 0.25 and 0.4 milligrams are subject to fines of between VND2-3 million (US$95-143) if they are driving cars and VND200,000-300,000 if they are driving motorbikes.

In both cases, violators can also have their licenses suspended for 30 days. Fines are doubled for drivers with blood alcohol levels of more than 0.4 milligrams.

Police in HCMC and Hanoi already double fines for every traffic violation.

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