After several fatal accidents involving sleeper buses in Vietnam, the National Traffic Safety Committee proposed that the Ministry of Transport consider whether the buses might be better off the roads.

About 90 percent of passenger bus accidents in the past nine months were caused by sleeper buses. In October alone, three sleeper bus accidents killed four people and left 30 injured.

In central Nghe An province's Dien Chau district, a sleeper bus collided head-on with a container truck. Another sleeper bus suddenly burst into flames while carrying tens of passengers along National Highway 1A in central Ha Tinh province, although no fatalities were reported.

"Many countries have banned or restricted these vehicles on long-distance routes, while in Vietnam the vehicles are exclusively used for this kind of route," said vice chairman of the committee Nguyen Hoang Hiep.

Sleeper buses became popular in 2007 as a cheap, convenient way to travel. In Hanoi alone, My Dinh Bus Station owns 130 sleeper buses and Giap Bat Bus Station owns 50. A sleeper bus leaves from Nuoc Ngam Bus Station every 30 minutes.

However, their large size made them more likely to fall on their side than normal buses, and the fact that they were assembled from ordinary buses made them even more unsafe, especially in sharp bends or mountain passes, according to Chairman of Hanoi Transportation Association Bui Danh Lien.

Nguyen Dam Van, director of Van Minh Tourism Company, which owns tens of sleeper buses, said the safety of the vehicles depended on their price. Some cost only 1.5 billion VND (70,500 USD) while others cost up to 6 billion VND (282,000 USD).

However, he attributed the accidents mainly to the carelessness of drivers and loose management of transport companies, rather than the vehicles themselves.

Vice chairman Hiep said that the committee had asked relevant authorities to consider regulating the age of drivers and their driving experience, as well as maximum speed and running time. "It's necessary to ban the vehicles between 2am and 5am to prevent drivers from causing accidents," he said.

The Vietnam Registration Office previously inspected double decker sleeper buses and announced that they satisfied the technical criteria for safety. The ministry will announce its decision this month.-VNA