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You Want Less Traffic Congestion, Learn to Drive Like the Saigonese: Hanoi Official

It's been a tough couple weeks for Vietnam's traffic officials, what with the rain and the flooding and the clashing definitions of the term 'traffic jam'.

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Now, unfortunately, there is more ire to add to the conversation, as a handful of local officials are facing backlash for their comments, which chastise Vietnamese drivers and car owners.

Earlier this week, Vice Chairman of Hanoi Nguyen Quoc Hung spoke on the capital's traffic congestion, pointing the finger at drivers who lacked proper road etiquette.

“If the manners of drivers in Hanoi [were] as good as those of drivers in Ho Chi Minh City, the traffic situation will improve a lot,” Hung told radio broadcoaster Voice of Vietnam, reports Thanh Nien.

In the first nine months of 2015, drivers in the capital racked up 412,000 traffic violations to the tune of VND119 billion (US$5.3 million) in fines. After Hung's comments, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc – who is also chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee – echoed the sentiment, alleging that Hanoi's number of traffic violations is greater than Saigon's, though no statistics were provided for the southern city.

In addition to bad drivers, Hung also blamed lagging construction and development projects for crowding the city streets, such as downtown Hanoi's current elevated railway and subway initiatives.

Elsewhere in the news media, Department of Transport Deputy Director Nguyen Xuan Tan also came under fire after suggesting that most car owners were only purchasing the four-wheeled vehicles as status symbols and not for practical reasons, reports DTI.

In a September 15 interview – presumably with DTI, though the source is not specified – Tan said: “[Vietnamese people] buy cars just to show off, don't care where they park or even know how much the maintenance costs are. A neighbor of mine bought one. They didn't need it but still bought one to look good. In two years, they only traveled 10,000 kilometers.”

Locals, however, didn't appreciate these statements, arguing that car owners shouldn't be blamed for urban Vietnam's traffic woes but rather infrastructure and vehicle management were the issues at hand.

“The world has used cars as its main transport for hundreds of years now while cars still remain a dream for many Vietnamese people,” wrote reader Hoai Huong. Several other commenters echoed the same frustration.

“Even if people buy cars just to look good, they don’t use them often enough to cause congestion so it's not right to blame them,” wrote reader Long Dan. “The government's weakness in infrastructure planning is the sole cause.”

The rising number of vehicles in Vietnam highlights the country's urban transportation troubles – according to the Department of Transport, 183,000 new vehicles were registered in Vietnam in the first few months of 2015, including 40,000 cars – however perhaps it's best to ease off the criticism for a while, as it seems to be a sensitive point among the general public.

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