Vice-chairman of the National Transport Safety Committee Nguyen Hoang Hiep spoke with Giao thong (Transport) newspaper about Vietnam's efforts to tighten transport management.

* Last year, Vietnam saw fewer accidents, fatalities and injuries on its roads. However, fatalities are still persistent, in spite of efforts by authorities. In your opinion, what was the major cause?

Looking back at 2013, I can say that in the first half of the year, road accidents were so serious with the number of fatalities increasing by almost 400 compared with the same period the previous year - particularly in April, May and June.

Serious accidents have scared people and made roads sound unsafe.

Recognising this, the committee, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Public Security and other government agencies sat down to analyse the problem together. They agreed that bad management was the main cause.

Government agencies then agreed on the need to tighten up. As a result, transport safety in the second half of 2013 saw dramatic improvements with a considerable decline in serious accidents.

Generally speaking, the National Assembly and the Government agreed road safety efforts in 2013 was successful.

Some of the measures initiated by the committee and other agencies to reduce traffic congestion in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have proven to be successful while people's awareness of road safety has improved.

* Coaches and trucks were the primary cause for the heavy loss of life in road accidents in 2013. Have the Government and the committee adopted any measures to overcome this serious problem?

The drivers are to blame. They failed to abide by the law and road safety regulations. Another (indirect) cause was the State's poor management of transport. In my opinion, this is the root cause.

Chasing after profits, many transport enterprises have ignored road safety regulations. Many drivers were given the freedom to handle the vehicles in any way they wanted.

To solve this problem, of course, it needs time and a workable road map so that it doesn't cause difficulties for transport enterprises. Whatever we do, we have to ensure road safety and the efficient operation of enterprises.

With these guiding principles, the committee have decided to treat 2014 as the year to "tighten transport management and control over weighted vehicles".

To achieve the above mentioned two goals, we will focus efforts on compiling legal documents while reviewing existing laws and regulations to make adjustments if necessary.

In addition, we will step up inspection activities to ensure good law enforcement by both the drivers and the transport companies.

In the first quarter of 2014, we'll organise a conference on transport costs and try to find the most suitable means of transport to optimise the use of high-risk vehicles, such as trucks.

A GPS control centre is also being rolled out soon with a data collection centre to collate statistics and help penalise enterprises using lax drivers that violate the law.

We want to make transport enterprises and vehicle owners more accountable for accidents and not just focus on drivers.

In the plan, we'll also be tightening control of bed-coaches and double-decker coaches and raise licence requirements for drivers.

* We have talked quite a lot about "transport culture". Has the committee adopted any breakthrough in promoting the people's awareness in the communication campaign?

I think that having a good "transport culture" is the roots and foundation for curbing and reducing transport accidents sustainably. This is a basic and long-term measure that we have to apply constantly and persistently. We have held talks with the Ministry of Education and Training on how to reform the contents and methodology of teaching road safety in schools. The programme will be included in the official curriculum.

We will continue to organise a contest on "Smart Transport" for school pupils.

Some 1 million pupils have sent their entries to the contest organisers and we expect in 2014 we'll have at least 4 million students participate in the contest.

In addition, we'll organise diverse activities to raise awareness on road safety.

* With Tet around the corner, heavy traffic is being experienced throughout all corners of the country. On this occasion, does the committee want to send any message to road users?

We want all people sitting behind the wheel to think about their own safety and the safety of others, including family members.

We have also established a hotline so that everyone can call in to inform us about the quality of transport and any problems you want us to help with.-VNA