Concerns raised following record motorbike sales in Vietnam

Last update: 15:12 | 28/01/2019

Against all predictions about the market saturation, motorbike sales in Vietnam in 2018 hit a record high of 3.4 million units, breaking the sales record set seven years ago; however consequences from this boom have been much debated in the country.  


With more than 46 million of motorbikes in the country of 95 million, it works out that 484 out of every 1,000 Vietnamese people own a motorbike, ranking Vietnam the second highest motorbike ownership per capita rate in the world behind Taiwan. 


The rising circulation of motorbikes has triggered concerns over consequences namely pollution and traffic accidents. 

Worsening air pollution, specifically in metropolises such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is mainly caused by rapid urbanization including the circulation of petroleum-fueled motorbikes. 

Figures indicate the main factors contributing to the severity of the problem are traffic emissions, industrial production, and construction.

If you’ve lived in Vietnam long enough, you’ll know that Vietnamese people would hardly be able to get around town without motorbikes. 

Motorbikes occupy roads in Vietnam. Photo: Flickr

Motorbikes occupy roads in Vietnam. 

In the context of poor development of public means of transport and narrow urban roads, motorbike remains the only form of transport for the majority of people in Vietnam. 

In addition, travelling habit has also contributed to the growing circulation of motorbikes. 

Motorbikes are also the main cause for road accidents in the country.

Putting aside infrastructure and law enforcement issues, the driving behavior of motorbike drivers plays an important role in ensuring road safety.

According to the World Health Organization, around 14,000 people die due to road collisions in Vietnam every year. Motorcyclists account for 59% of the road traffic accidents in the country. 

Motorcyclists’ bad behaviors

Illustrative photo

Many bad behaviors that invariably lead to road crashes include speeding, crossing lanes unexpectedly, overtaking other motorbikes without warning, running red lights, drunk driving, not wearing helmets, changing direction without signaling, not paying attention, driving against traffic in one-way streets and driving with more than two people on a motorbike. 

Other potentially dangerous driving habits include smoking, spitting or using mobile phones while driving, and driving on the sidewalks.

In addition, there are motorbikes that pose risks to other road users, such as “zombie” motorbikes which are very old and poorly equipped with no horn, no light and no mirror. 

They look like metal frames hitting the roads, speeding, overtaking others and releasing dark, smelly, thick layers of smoke from their old and loud exhausts. These bikes, used mostly by small traders, threaten road safety and worsen air pollution at the same time.

Urgent actions required 

The government should focus more on traffic enforcement as traffic safety can’t be achieved without strong efforts made by the government. Strict fines and criminal charges should be pressed against motorbike drivers who purposefully practice unsafe driving.

According to statistics, most traffic accidents occur on national highways as a result of speeding and reckless driving, which shows that many of these collisions could have been avoided with more forethought. 

The government should organize more campaigns that raise public awareness of driving etiquette. Along with implementing strong law enforcement, things may improve.

A number of transport experts, meanwhile, proposed using electric bikes to curb pollution while Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are planning to ban motorbikes from entering downtown.


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