A new study by researchers from RMIT Vietnam has uncovered surprising attitudes towards road safety in one of the world’s busiest cities.
The study reveals motorcyclists coursing through Ho Chi Minh City's streets believe they are perceived as foolish if they heed road laws by those who do not obey the rules.
It also found young Vietnamese motorcyclists over-estimate their riding ability and are likely to speed more often.
The findings flow from surveys of more than 500 young motorcyclists, as well as focus groups conducted with adults, adolescents and families.
In 2013, almost 40,000 traffic incidents were reported throughout Vietnam, including 9,600 fatalities. In Ho Chi Minh City, 70 per cent of road accidents were linked to motorbikes.
The study was conducted by RMIT University Vietnam researchers Professor Linda Brennan, Assistant Professor Lukas Parker, Dang Nguyen and Hue Duong.
Duong said the research provided unexpected insights into road safety and social norms in Vietnam.
"Surprisingly we found there was a widely held belief that if one obeyed the road laws but others didn't, the one who did abide by the rules was foolish," he said.
"No government in the world can ensure law enforcement on road safety anywhere and at any time, and that is why healthy social norms should be established and encouraged.
“If we can make sense of these norms, we will be able to better channel our resources into designing the right messages for effective social change campaigns."
Parker said the findings were compounded by the fact that Vietnam was a collectivist culture where individuals constantly sought approval from their peers.
He said while a majority of research generally found young motorcyclists over-estimated their own ability and underestimated that of their peers, this remained a cause for concern.
"This lesser fear of the potential fatal consequences of risky behaviours is often characteristic of young adults," he said.
Parker said the focus groups also found males commonly assumed that they were good drivers, while females felt less skilled.
"These assumptions demonstrate that traditional gender stereotypes may still be at play and may be something that needs to be addressed," he said.
The research builds on exploratory studies undertaken by the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, an organisation working to provide life-saving traffic safety knowledge and skills to the developing world.
The researcher’s findings appear in Going With The Flow: Young Motorcyclists' Perception Of Speeding Norms and But I AM normal: Perceptions of safe driving norms in Vietnam, papers accepted by the upcoming Australia-New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference in Brisbane and the Journal of Social Marketing respectively.