Lights, Horns & Mobile Phones

This, like many of my blogs, is aimed at new riders to Vietnam. Anyone here for a while if they’ve survived has probably picked up on most of it.

In Australia and I assume most Western countries if a driver flashes their headlights at you it is a courtesy which means one of two things. On a highway or country road they will be alerting you to a hazard ahead. Animals on the road, an accident situation or most likely a police radar. In an urban environment they will be saying I’ve seen you and are waiting to let you cross in front of them, let you into the flow of traffic or to give you space to park safely.

You need to understand it means exactly the opposite here. You will not be alerted of an accident or police in the country. In fact the accident hazard situation is accentuated by onlookers who will pull up in the only free space to pass on the road to take photos. If there is a broken down bus or truck a tree branch is placed on the road. Apparently they are more visible than the vehicle itself.

Where the danger lies for us here is that flashing the lights means “get out of my way I’m coming through”. You can see when that message is misinterpreted it can put you at risk of collision. Lights will also be flashed at night from behind to indicate their presence and intention to pass rather than using the horn.

BEEP BEEP WHAT’S ALL THE HONKING ABOUT?This is possibly the first thing you might notice and/or complain about when you arrive here. In most of our countries the horn is used to either get your mates attention to say g’day (maybe that’s just country people) or a long continuous honk will be to vent your displeasure around another road users antics.

Is all this honking really necessary here? Of course it isn’t if you are a competent rider. Using the horn in certain situations though is a good idea as most riders here, expats included are not spatially aware to the rear. If you have a bike or vehicle closing on you its the way you let them know you are there. Overtaking a slower bike in a narrow lane you might use it to warn of your presence. Mostly though here it is over used by either lazy or impatient riders and drivers. Rather than slow for an intersection they will continuously beep and run straight through it. Riding too quickly through built up traffic they will use the horn as a way to bully their way. Beeping through a red right or riding the wrong way up the road for some thinks it gives them right of passage.

The one that used to really annoy me and at certain times still does is the honking at a red light when there’s still seconds left on the countdown timer and a wall of traffic in front. Mostly it is a warning to the ones with their minds off the job deeply invested in their mobile phones or away with the fairy’s to get ready its game on again soon. In any case if you casually kick the side stand down and walk back to give the taxi driver a spray it might be time to consider if Vietnam is for you as none of us are going to change this practice anytime soon.

If this is you, give yourself an uppercut and stop it immediately. Other than not wearing a helmet nothing screams “I am an idiot” louder than this.

If you take Grab bikes don’t stand for this either. You are being put at unnecessary risk. I understand that using your phone to navigate is necessary and common practice here. There are many great handlebar mounted holders now which allow you to glance to the phone as you would a mirror without taking your peripheral vision off the road and the continuously changing traffic situation ahead. There is NO call or message received that is important enough to deal with it while riding. If you receive calls while riding that absolutely must be dealt with pull over well out of the flow of traffic and deal with it. If this happens regularly then there are numerous bluetooth devices which on voice command will allow you to safely answer calls.

Enjoy the ride and keep the rubber side down!


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