Asia Minute: Vietnam Cracks Down on Drunk Driving

Jan 31, 2020

Today closes out the first month of the new year. And it’s a chance to look at the early impact of some laws that changed with the start of 2020. There is one legal adjustment in Vietnam that has already had a big effect.

Vietnam has had a severe problem with drunk driving for years.

In 2013, Vietnam’s National Traffic Safety Committee said about 40% of all the country’s deaths on the road involved drunk driving — killing more than 24 people every day.

Three years later, laws were toughened, but drunk driving fatalities continued at a high rate.

Effective January 1st, a new round of more stringent laws kicked in with quick effect. Fines were doubled — driver’s licenses can now be suspended for two years.

Local media report police handed out more than 6,000 fines in the first few weeks of the new year.

Bloomberg reports that beer sales in Vietnam have plummeted by 25% since the new laws took effect.

Heineken has noticed. The Financial Times quotes analysis from Bernstein Research showing that about 5% of Heineken’s world-wide group sales come from Vietnam — along with nearly half of its revenues from the Asia Pacific.

Vietnam’s economic development and growing middle class in recent years have led to increased beer consumption — more than quadrupling it since 2004 according to local firm SSI Securities.

That’s come with a health cost — the World Health Organization says alcohol consumption in Vietnam contributes to nearly 80,000 deaths in the country each year.