Driving American Style?

Today, my memory was jogged as I was driving in rush hour
traffic thinking about what a bunch of #@^**^&’s some drivers are here. I
have written of it in the past but let me recap a bit.

Many tourists and even expats look at traffic in Vietnam as pure
Chaos. At first look there seems to me no rhyme or reason for anything that
they do. People pull into traffic from side roads without looking, drive down
the wrong side of the street, text on cells, weave in and out blindly drunk,
and do not obey traffic controls. Some but not all of the unsafe driving can be
explained by how traffic works here. Roads are just too busy to turn across
lanes onto a road you may wish to travel, therefore, a person has to turn into
opposing traffic against the close curb and wait for an opportunity to merge
against oncoming traffic into your lane. Aha!! One mystery solved. Another is
that vehicles are always required to remain in the inside lane and the
motorcycles the outside, even if turning in either direction. That one boggles
my mind. It means that there are always vehicles pulling onto your path as you
are trying to drive straight through an intersection.

OK….. That is enough to confuse and scare most visitors into
not driving. I never had the benefit of anybody teaching me the rules and it
was coming here and experiencing it for many years on and off before I had the
confidence of giving it a go. I guess if had jumped right into it, I would have
learned fast enough. I now drive in all cities including the horror traffic of
Saigon and Hanoi.
Even though I have almost 40 years of motorcycle experience, I am always wary
and cautious of what is behind me and coming from the sides. I know there are
some that read this blog that think a person has to be absolutely nuts to drive
here, and I agree. I would not if I did not find it necessary to do so.

Anyway…… Here I was driving down a busy road congested with
bicycles, motorcycles, and the occasional car when through the constant blaring
of sounding horns, when behind came the thunder of desperate honking. Rushing
at dangerous speeds forcing drivers to flee for cover was a taxi driving like a
madman. Behind him were two large trucks screeching their 150db horns swerving
in and out trying to force the taxi and other vehicles in front to make way.
This is quite normal here. Right of way is usually given to the larger and more
aggressive vehicles, even when approaching from behind. They will race up and
ride your rear honking furiously until you pull to the right and let them pass.
If you do not or cannot pull over far enough, they will simply pull into
oncoming traffic and force all of the smaller vehicles against the curb or even
into the ditches and sidewalks. Why did this jog my memory?

Drifter and I were having a conversation and I was discussing
the way they aggressively forced traffic t pull over from behind when he piped
up “You know it’s the Americans fault right?” Huh?? What are you talking about
I asked? Drifter replied that during the war there were not a lot of
motorcycles and fewer cars. Most rode bicycles and the roads were as congested
back then. The Americans however, had fleets of jeeps and trucks. When the
American military moved about, they always drove in a rushed aggressive manner
forcing traffic aside as there was always the fear at being shot at, and the
faster a person moves through populated areas, the less likely to be fired
upon. He continued to say that the driving habits today is simply a
continuation of what the driving was like back then. Has anyone really tried to
show them any different?

Hmmmmmmmmmm……… a very interesting theory. Perhaps it is
true….. What do you think?


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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

6 thoughts on “Driving American Style?

  1. some years ago there was an interview on a Vietnamese TV channel about people from a countryside village. they were compensated for relocation and they all bought motorbikes. The point of that issue on TV was that most of the villagers had their motorbikes sold and they were using the ox-car again. One of the guys explained: …. because oxcars don’t collide…

    Nuf said…

    Have great days, enjoy them all!


  2. As I remember there were apc’s, 5 tons and even tanks barrelling down Hw#1 and some of the cowboys driving them would play chicken with you or even try to “take off your westcoast mirrors”. Those were the after production extention mirrors that were so popular with the guys who drove alot. They would drive close to you in the opposite direction and whack your mirrors off as a form of chicken while also trying to navigate the crazy traffic…yes the ARVN’s were also driving jeeps and trucks also. I drove quite alot in those days and also had some close calls…..pretty harrowing too!

  3. Well said, and you are correct…. there is so much stupidity in traffic, but what i specificly am referring to is the agressive rushing manner that the 4 wheel vehicles use. It seems they cannot drive with the flow of traffic but must push all aside so they can pass.
    The photo’s are not my own. I downloaded them from the internet. I would guess that the photo’s are from pre 2008.

  4. I can’t agree, especially when something like 80% of the current population was born after the war. When you look at what causes the traffic accidents and deaths you will find a total disreguard for traffic laws (partly because they’re not inforced), a complete disreguard for human life and property; then, of course total stupidity.
    As you said; they blindly force each other off the road.
    They drive at night with no lights (motorbikes in both the city and country). Why? Because it saves a 40,000d lightbulb.
    Pass 3 abreast on a two lane road…on a blind curve.
    They will blindly blow through a red light without looking.
    Watch ‘how’ they drive a moto sometime; the front brake is usually missing and they ride along ‘covering’ the rear…they don’t use the throttle to control speed around town (is that too much of a reach?) they keep the throttle steady and use the brake DUH!!??
    The one I really love to death is; turning right from your left side and visa-versa. I have put several down because of this b@#+#$%& !! Not on purpose but because I was paying attention and they weren’t…’crunch’.
    The latest one was yesterday morning when Phuong and I were going for breakfast. The woman came up on our left then, when she was abreast of us, decided to turn right from about a foot away. Phuong said I was rude for yelling ‘HEY!’ at the last second.
    We were having coffee one night with friends and I watched 6 scooters coming down the street, each had a driver and a female passenger…they were all riding close, chattering away and — none had any lights on.
    When they got in front of the cafe a woman blindly pulled out of a side street — no lights — yep, 2 of them T-Boned her, I saw 2 of them actually flip. ‘Road-Rash’ is usually a good teacher…not here!!

    There was just an article here about the first quarter of the years traffic accidents. 2,568 killed, 1,456 injured — the equivelant of a 737 falling out of the sky every week and a half.

    I’ve always said that the most dangerous thing in Vietnam isn’t the land mines or UXO’s, the tour buses, typhoons or landslides — it’s 2 girls on a motorbike (just a whisker above a kid on a bicycle).
    Last year I was going down Huong Vuong, the big divided street here and two on a scooter were in the other lane. They were both on their cells as they crossed into my lane…going slow and weaving all over the place pointing and talking to each other and on the cells. I went into ‘avoidance’ mode and backed off the throttle, covered both brakes and tried to get out of the way — every time I went one way they swerved with me — I finally stopped!!
    Just before the last swerve (directly at me) and right before impact (a matter of a foot or so) I held down the horn button for a few seconds…they both looked at me in shock!! DUHHHHH!!!

    If you read the newspapers most accidents are caused by total stupidity.

    Of course there is the latest one about the passenger on the Vietnam Airlines here trying to open the emergency exit, ok, they were still on the runway.

  5. HEyyyyyyyyy OWEE; Just how old are the photo’s and video, i heard a rumor that there is a helmet “law” back in country now ?!?

  6. Drifter tells it the way it was when I was there in 1970. I have to admit that I drove that way with duce and a halfs army trucks in a very agressive way…

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