Speeding leads to highway deaths

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Reckless driving and frequent tire blow outs have plagued Vietnam's most advanced roadway


The bus involved in the accident on June 13 that killed 8 people and injured 10 others on the Ho Chi Minh City-Trung Luong Highway

Investigations into a recent highway accident, which killed eight and injured 10, has indicated that speeding is rampant along the six-lane Ho Chi Minh City-Trung Luong Highway.

Officials in charge of the new roadway are struggling to explain the unusual frequency of punctured tires along the roadway-which was open to traffic in February 2010.

Particularly after a police investigation identified a sudden blow out as the immediate cause of the most recent tragedy.

At around 3 a.m., on June 13, a passenger bus collided rear-ended a truck while travelling through Long An Province.

Police say the driver of the truck stopped, suddenly, along the roadway after its front tire suddenly burst.

Five people on the bus, including the driver, died immediately; three others were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

There were eighteen passengers aboard the bus, including three children. A

5-year-old boy numbered among the dead.

Eyewitnesses blamed the bus driver for his excessive speed, saying he was unable to stop quickly enough to prevent the fatal collision.

Traffic police say that the truck driver was forced to swerve into the fast lane following a blowout that occurred seconds before the crash.

Speeding

Each half of the Ho Chi Minh City-Trung Luong Highway has two normal traffic lanes flanked by an emergency lane. The speed limit in the far left lane is 100km/h, followed by a slow moving traffic lane (80km/h) and an emergency lane.

Police say that most of the vehicles found breaking the law are cars and 15-seat coaches. Many drivers get caught speeding and encroaching into the slow-moving lane-some have even reached speeds of 149 kilometers per hour.

When traffic police stop most speeding cars and buses, they say many drivers are shocked and claim that they don't know what they've done wrong.

Bus drivers have the habit of speeding down the highway without bothering to look at speed limit signs according to the police team that patrols the HCMC-Trung Luong Highway.

"If they see traffic police from a distance, they will inform one another to slow down," a policeman said.

Police investigation into the June 13 crash also revealed that the bus driver had nearly killed a pedestrian after leaving Ca Mau Province for Ho Chi Minh City.

"He was driving so fast that he almost hit a pedestrian who was crossing the road," one of the injured passengers said.

Flat tires

The HCMC-Trung Luong Highway Management Board has logged an estimated 2,000 flat-tires and 3,000 vehicle breakdowns since the highway opened to traffic in February of 2010.

A total of seven accidents (which claiming 20 lives and injured several dozen motorists) have been reported, so far. Most of the accidents occurred at night and were caused by speeding, flat tires and drivers crossing into improper lanes, they say.

The board has denied charges that improper paving techniques are to blame for the problems or that the road's surface is dangerously rough.

The roadway was created using a process called NovaChip-in which a thin layer of hot mix and emulsified asphalt are applied to the road surface.

The process is widely used on highways in Europe and the United States and is completely safe for cars, the management board claimed.

The board insists that reckless drivers are to blame for the fatal accidents. 

"If vehicles are driving faster than 100 kilometers per hour, of course their tires will heat up and easily burst," said Le Van Ngoan, deputy director of the board.

Police said that many truck drivers routinely change out their tires to pass official inspections. After the trucks are licensed as "safe", they often slap on an old set of tires and hit the road.

There are also cases, they say, when truck drivers fell asleep at the wheel causing accidents late at night or early in the morning.

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