Pham Thi Quynh Anh, 42, had just finished shopping at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City's Go Vap District on December 15.
Anh was walking home with her two children on Quang Trung Street, which is bustling with shops offering year-end promotions on everything from clothes to house-wares.
Electronics stores on the way had set up massive television screens on the sidewalk to broadcast live a football match between Vietnam and Malaysia. People on motorbikes were crowding every inch of space in front of the screens.
Anh had no choice but to get off the sidewalk, step onto the busy street, and walk around the parked bikes. As soon as she did though, two youngsters speeding on street hit her from behind.
Anh, who was rushed to Hospital 175 in Go Vap District, is still in critical condition. Mercifully, her children escaped the accident unscathed.
Anh's brother, Thuan, said the blame doesn't entirely rest on the two young men, who managed to flee the scene.
"The sidewalk is quite wide on both sides of the road but shops have occupied much of the space. When the sidewalk is overflowing with discount items, pedestrians have no choice but to step off the "˜relative' safety of the sidewalk and in the direct line of traffic," he told Thanh Nien Weekly.
Anh suffered serious brain injury in the accident, which might result in lower body paralysis. "It is frustrating to see shops paying no heed to safety laws and authorities doing nothing to enforce them," he said.
Anh's case is not an isolated one. It is commonplace to see accidents outside shops advertising on the sidewalk.
Noise pollution is another major public nuisance.
Several big stores hook up huge speakers and have singers and cheerleaders to draw the attention of passers-by.
Le Van Minh, vice principal of Le Hong Phong High School on Nguyen Van Cu Street in District 5, said the students and teachers are fed up with the noise from NowZone, a shopping mall that opened two years ago across the street and opposite to the school.
"We had complained of the noise levels to the mall management when it opened two years ago. The situation improved a little bit but they still have loud music and announcements every time there is a sale," he told Thanh Nien Weekly.
On December 12, the school submitted a complaint to the city administration and the municipal education department after noise levels reached a new high during year-end promotion events.
"We called NowZone but they refused to assume responsibility or monitor noise levels. The singing and dancing across the street is a huge distraction for the students. It's like watching a live music performance. All classrooms are affected," said vice principal Minh.
"We had been training ten teams made up of the most outstanding students for an upcoming national contest. It was becoming increasingly hard to focus on anything with the students," he said.
Nguyen Dinh Nam, vice chairman of the District 1's Nguyen Cu Trinh Ward People's Committee where NowZone is located, said the district authorities are dealing with the case and will fine the shopping mall soon.
On Tuesday, NowZone marketing manager Nguyen Thanh Trung confirmed with Thanh Nien Weekly that they had received complaints from Le Hong Phong High School and accepted their responsibilities in the case.
An inspector at the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism in charge of managing advertisement said that loud advertising is subject to fines under a decree on environmental protection.
A noise level above 70 decibels is considered noise pollution. "However, the department inspectors rarely handle such cases due to limited personnel. We have deputed district authorities to deal with the issue," he told Thanh Nien Weekly on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, lawyer Nguyen Minh Thuan of the Saigon Vietnam Law firm said residents harassed by noise pollution can file lawsuits and claim damages.
"However, victims of noise pollution must submit evidence of damages before demanding compensation," he said.
Before filing a lawsuit, Thuan said that affected residents should request concerned authorities including local people's committees, police and inspectors to penalize the offenders.
"The act of causing noise pollution, for advertising or any other purpose, is regulated in Decree 117. Violators can be fined from VND2 million (US$103) to VND100 million ($5,128) besides possible suspension of their business license," he said.
Nguyen Kim, a major mall selling electronics on District 1's Tran Hung Dao Street, has announced its biggest-ever promotion campaign on 500,000 items until January 2, with discounts of up to 45 percent.
A passer-by, with his hands covering his ears, said, "It's not unusual for Nguyen Kim to play revoltingly loud music, but this time, they have taken it too far."
"No person in his right mind would enter a store where they risk deafness."