More punitive measures are needed to battle drink driving, the cause of 40 per cent of traffic accidents, according to a national workshop held in Hanoi on Nov. 15.

Speaking at the workshop on drink driving, Dang Thanh Son from the Ministry of Justice said current measures did little to deter drink drivers.

"Only drunk drivers who cause serious accidents have their licences revoked, while in many cases they are only required to pay administrative fines," said Son.

He suggested that drivers with a high blood alcohol level should be subject to additional penalties, including having their vehicles impounded and their driving licences revoked.

Citing the experiences of other countries such as the UK and France , where drink driving incurs steep fines, deputy director of the Traffic Police Nguyen Anh Tuan said the current level of fines should be at least doubled.

"Currently the highest fine a drunk driver faces is 6 million VND (287 USD)," said Tuan.

"Over the first half of this year, some 24,600 drivers were recorded to have failed breath tests. However this figure hardly reflected the real situation of drink driving."

Nguyen Van Tien, Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly's Committee on Social Affairs, said alcohol consumption had reached an alarming rate in Vietnam . The nation produced 350 million litres of liquor and 2.5 billion litres of beer each year, and on av erage a Vietnamese person consumed 29 litres of alcohol annually, while five years ago, this figure was at 18 litres.

Tien said that there were few policies in place to limit alcohol consumption. He suggested imposing higher taxes on alcohol products, prohibiting the advertisement of alcohol products and drafting a law to help prevent alcohol abuse.

Deputy Transport Minister Le Manh Hung said current measures seemed not to get to the root of the problem due to the assumption by some policy makers that alcohol consumption was solely a matter of personal choice and responsibility.

"Actually, there should be enforced measures to limit alcohol production and consumption also," he said./.