Bình Thuận authorities have promised to crack down on local companies who lease motorbikes to foreigners without two-wheeled motorized driving licenses following a dramatic rise in the number of accidents involving tourists in Phan Thiết.
Phan Thiết traffic police reported 20 road accidents involving foreign tourists in the last three months, in which one person died and 11 others were injured.
On April 5, at around 2000 hours, Russian tourist Alexander Rusbliakh, 34, hit a Vietnamese pedestrian, the latter of whom died at the hospital.
In another accident, a foreign tourist driving a scooter hit Nguyen Huu Nghi, who suffered multiple injuries and was taken to a hospital by passers-by. In an irresponsible development, the driver of the scooter fled the scene; police are looking for him.
Thanh Nien discovered that it is very easy for a foreign tourist to hire a motorbike in Phan Thiết, as it is a lucrative business with enormous profits.
COMMENT: One enterprising Vietnamese purchased four motorbikes for VND125 million (US$5,970) to rent out and recouped his investment in seven months.
Unfortunately, for rental operators that don't ask to see a motorbike operator's permit, renters only have to tell them the name of their hotel and pay VND500,000 per day (US$24).
As most of our readers know all too well, I strongly object to rental operators in Thailand renting motorbikes and motorcycles to tourists that have never been licensed to operate such vehicles, particularly if they are not accustomed to driving on the "left." Sadly, many operators are permitted to drive intoxicated with no requirement for a helmet.
Thus, it is refreshing that authorities in Phan Thiết actually care about who is renting motorbikes, although I strongly advocate that both drivers without licenses and rental operators be subject to rigorous fines.
Unfortunately, in Vietnam the 120-question written exam is in Vietnamese (with no translators permitted), but what I do advise is that foreigners bring a valid motorbike license with them to Vietnam, preferably one that is at least two years old, as reputable operators may potentially honor them.
If the operator refuses to legally rent you a motorbike, renting a motorbike in violation of the law will get you a stiff fine, even if you don't hit someone. If you do, you're in big, big trouble.
I also recommend that only reputable rental operators be used and that the maximum amount of personal liability insurance be obtained.
Foreign tourists should also be cognizant of the financial liability they face if they injure or kill a Vietnamese national with or without a motorbike license. Such offenses can result in jail time and financial restitution to the injured or decedent family member.
Phan Thiết is the capital of Bình Thuận province, in southeastern Vietnam, where all government offices for the province are located. The population of Phan Thiết is expected to increase to about 400,000 by 2015.