Vietnam official proposes lowering driving age to 15

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A student in Ho Chi Minh City talking on the phone while driving a motorbike without wearing a helmet

A senior official with the National Committee for Traffic Safety, has proposed lowering the minimum age to drive a motorbike under 50cc from 16 to 15-years-old.

"Many students [under 16] are [already] driving motorbikes to school. This shows a real demand that can't be prevented or controlled. Moreover, the 15-year-olds are more mature than they were ten years ago," Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted Nguyen Hoang Hiep, the committee's vice chairman as saying.

While one must be 18 to obtain a driver's license in Vietnam, Article 60 of the Traffic Law stipulates that those 16-years-old and up can drive a motorbike under 50cc [without an official driver's license].

This means at high schools, only tenth graders are not allowed to drive motorbikes.

Hiep said the proposal was his idea and did not necessarily reflect the views of the traffic safety committee.

"Any traffic safety issue needs thorough scientific studies that take into account relevant laws, infrastructure and opinions of the affected people," he said, adding that a new driver's license for motorbikes under 50cc could be established if 15-year-olds were permitted to drive.

Hiep's proposal, made in the local media, has drawn mixed opinions.

Nguyen Thanh Lien, former director of the National Children Hospital, also said many students under 16 are driving motorbikes to schools and parking them in out-of-the-way places to avoid the traffic police who wait at school parking lots to issue fines to underage drivers.

"They have a real demand. Thus, I think they should be allowed to drive motorbikes with small engines," he said.

But Do Doan Loi, deputy director of the Hanoi-based Bach Mai Hospital, said he supported the current regulations.

"The 15-year-olds have matured physically but not psychologically. They may speed and endanger themselves and others or may be unable to control [motorbikes] in difficult situations," he said.

He said that this teenage group can use electric bikes instead.

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