New license requirements trouble drivers, contradict law

October 16, 2008
A student from the HCMC University of Fine Arts, Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc (L), said it would be unfair if she can’t ride a motorbike just because of her 138-centimeter height or 38-kilogram weight

A recent decision which introduces more stringent conditions for individuals to be able to operate vehicles has ignited controversies among experts while some residents are worried their licenses could be revoked.

The Health Ministry has issued a decision that will ban people who weigh less than 40 kilograms (88 lbs) or are less than 145 centimeters (4’9”) tall from holding an A1 motorbike license regardless of age.

The decision, which will take effect 15 days after it appears in the official gazette, also requires drivers who wish to drive cars with up to nine seats for private use to be over 150 centimeters (4’11”) in height.

Comprehensive health requirements relating to mental health, heart conditions and vision are also stipulated in the decision.

Individuals 16 years of age and over will still be able to ride motorbikes under 50cc without a license, and the minimum age requirement to apply for an A1 license to ride motorbikes 50cc and over will remain at 18, according to the decision.

Procedural concerns

Many doctors from hospitals and medical centers said such detailed health examinations conducted for the purpose of license application were unrealistic because it would take more time and require greater fees from the applicants.

“Such an examination would take several days and a fee of up to VND500,000 (US$30),” said a doctor from Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

Deputy Director of HCMC’s Binh Thanh Hospital, Le Hoang Quy, said, “We used to offer medical checkups for applicants for driving license application that takes around 10 minutes at a fee of VND25,000 ($1.5). But we can’t continue this service due to the shortage of equipment.” A professor from HCMC University of Pharmacy and Medicine said some comprehensive health information was beyond the capacity of district medical centers to evaluate.

“District medical centers have been a popular place to offer medical certificates for the purpose of applying for the license to operate vehicles,” he said.

A HCMC doctor said it was virtually impossible for most medical centers to be able to offer such thorough examinations based on the stipulation of the new decision.

“It’s like scouring each tissue to check for cancer,” he said.

Lawyer Phan Trung Hoai of the Ho Chi Minh City Bars Association said the regulation on riders’ height is not practical because a riders visibility is always guaranteed.

He cited clause 1, article

48 of the Traffic Law that ruled an individual has a right to drive if his/her visibility is guaranteed.

As for car drivers, the lawyer noted that the driving seat is always adjustable, thus drivers can always achieve a clear line of sight.

“Consequently, the new regulation should only focus on the age of drivers,” Hoai concluded. “There’s no need to mandate the height of drivers as it would discriminate against height-challenged people.”

Non-retroactive law

The decision has worried a number of people who already own licenses, but would be disqualified under the new requirements.

Regarding the situation of police seizing previously-granted licenses, lawyer Hoai confirmed, “It is unlawful to confiscate such licenses because the decision issued by the Ministry of Health would only be effective from the date of its promulgation onwards.”

Deputy Director of the Health Ministry’s Treatment Department Tran Quy Tuong also confirmed the decision is not retroactive and issued licenses would remain valid.

Prudent standards: officials

“The requirements were set up based on statistics concerning the physical and health conditions of Vietnamese people,” Tuong said.

Head of the Health Ministry’s Food Safety and Hygiene Management Office, Nguyen Cong Khan, said a person weighing less than 40 kilograms would be considered malnourished and should recover before getting a driver license.

Deputy Head of the National Nutrition Institute Le Danh Tuyen said the height and weight requirements pronounced in the decision were reasonable standards to abide by.

“According to statistics from 2000, the average height of Vietnamese is 161.8 centimeters (5’3) for males and 152.4 (5’0) centimeters for females, while average weight is 54.2 kilograms for males and 47.1 kilograms for females,” he said.

Reported Thanh Tung – Le Nga – Lien Chau

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