Saturday, November 1, 2008

Safety Measures Bordering On The Absurd

Now, this news report could be funny if I could get past the absurdity of it. It seems that Vietnam's Ministry of Health recently proposed to introduce a driving ban for small-chested, too short, or too thin people.

If you have ever been to Vietnam, it wouldn't really be much of a surprise to hear such an outrageous proposal. It's easy to imagine the dangers those motorbike drivers and the pedestrians face every day. I have never seen that huge number of motorbikes on the road and the utter disregard for pedestrians anywhere else. I can still remember my constant fear of crossing the roads in Ho Chi Minh. I don't think it was intentional on the motorbike drivers' part but there's no obvious concern for pedestrians whose main goal is to just cross the street and get from point A to point B. Clearly, in HCM and I believe in most of Vietnam, the motorbike drivers are the kings of the roads.

It's easy to understand, really, the challenge of looking after the safety of these drivers and the hapless pedestrians. However, to prohibit small-chested, too short, and too thin people from driving motorbikes is probably the closest brush to the absurd that I can think of. Isn't that a discrimination of sorts? Why would people's "perceived handicaps" become the criteria if they can drive or not? Aren't there more important measures or guidelines that the government can focus on?

From what I recall, some of the drivers there don't even follow the most basic rules like respecting the pedestrians right of way (geez, that's what those pedestrian lanes are for). I can still remember that one truck driver that I saw who wasn't even looking straight ahead even if there were people attempting to cross. What's up with that? It made me think that there were no existing rules at all. But I guess that was just me struggling with my innate fear of crossing roads and placed in a most challenging situation of learning survival skills in the streets of HCM.

But despite those memories, I still think of HCM as the most quaint and wonderful place to visit. I like the people there. I was amazed of how "healthy" they look to me. In all my twenty-one days of stay there, I haven't seen any obese Vietnamese. So I can easily imagine the effect of this planned proposal should it see the light of day. I wonder how many would be left to legally drive motorbikes there.

I would be very interested to know how this plan pans out.

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