News

Postscript to Honkin' Tonkin

I think the article in the Viet Nam Times this morning regarding annual motocycle fatalities bears out my observation of how few crashes there are despite the chaos. The article stated that although fatal scooter accidents were up 642 from last year, to bring the total to over 7,100, you've still got to figure that in a city of 9 million where 80 percent of the men, women and children over twelve have mopeds, that figure is still massively low. If you could spend ten minutes at a busy intersection in Ho Chi Mihn City, you might even say it's a miracle.

However, in concert with the latest fatality figures, the government has instituted a new law: Moped riders on "major roads" (they did not clarify what counts as "major") must now wear safety helmets or face a whopping 40,000 Dong fine. That comes out to about $2.50. Folks obviously care about their two-fitty, because I saw all sorts of crazy-ass headwear on the way to the airport this morning -- construction helmets, velvet equestrian hard caps and even one dude who I swear was wearing an empty restaurant-size jar of mayonaise on his head. I bet the traffic cops are gonna have a ball enforcing this piece of legislation.

In a possibly related incident, yesterday a police major was fatally stabbed when he was ambushed by three assailants who then fled the murder scene on a scooter. Whether this tragic news has any relation to the new helmet laws would require me to go back to Ho Chi Mihn City and re-open my corporate expense account at The Seventeen, as well as face the now very creepy hotel watchman, Foo, who was banging on my door again at 6:30 a.m. this morning asking to be let in to "Change hot water." Please advise.

Sayonara Saigon. -- Tony Perez-Giese

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts