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Drink-driving in Vietnam researcher awarded Young Doctor of the Year

Resource type: News

Queensland University of Technology |

Queensland University of Technology is an Atlantic grantee. Dr Nguyen Minh Tam (photo, right) is an AP supported student in the Public Health Capacity Building Project conducted by Michael Dunne. Original Source: A PhD researcher currently based at QUT has recently been awarded the title of Vietnam’s Young Doctor of the Year. Dr Nguyen Minh Tam is a practicing physician and public health lecturer and researcher. He is completing his PhD, looking at the factors behind drink driving in Vietnam, at QUT. He said receiving the Young Doctor of the Year award meant he would be able to gain more attention for the findings of his research, which showed that well over half of road crashes in those he surveyed were at least partly caused by alcohol. “I am hoping to get this research out there in the community so that measures are taken to reduce the prevalence of road crashes,” Dr Tam said. “There needs to be more law enforcement and the perceptions of the public around drink driving need to change. “The results of the study showed that people who drank in the six hours prior to driving were more than eight times more likely to sustain traffic injuries compared to people who did not drink any alcohol.” Dr Tam said drinking and driving was a common practice among many in Vietnam, due in part to a combination of the culture of drinking with peers and the fact that most people’s main form of transport were motorbikes, meaning it was less likely that there was an appointed “designated driver”. “There is a sense of wanting to be social and drink with your friends, and because bikes hold a maximum of two people, having a designated driver would mean half the people would not be drinking,” he said. “That would not happen because there is a social expectation that people drink with peers.” For the study, Dr Tam measured the alcohol reading on patients admitted to hospital after being in a road crash, and then interviewed them when their condition was stable. He also interviewed people while on nights out. “The perceptions and attitudes in both groups were very similar,” he said. “Most respondents over-estimated their capacity to drink and drive legally and safely, never planned ahead and did not use alternatives to avoid drink-driving. “The main reason for not driving after drinking was the perceived physical risks, e.g. injuring themselves or other people, but not the perceived legal risk.” “The problem is that it perpetuates a poverty trap when people are in a vehicle crash, because, as Vietnam is still a collectivist society, family may have to sell off assets in order to pay for medical treatment which may leave them below the poverty line in some cases,” he said. Dr Tam said he was inspired to complete the study after seeing how high the prevalence was of traffic accidents while working as a physician. “In hospital, there are so many young lives wasted because of road accidents, but there is little research in Vietnam into what is causing the high rate of accidents,” he said. “Official data reported that every day about 32 people die as a result of a traffic crash. However, this is likely a substantial under-estimation.” Dr Tam has already presented his findings to the Asia-Pacific Injury Prevention Conference.

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