There is plenty of evidence in the statistics to suggest that Vietnam is quite simply in love with the motorbike. According to the country’s General Office of Statistics1, 46,000 motorbikes were imported into Vietnam in the first five months of the year, during which time the total value of imported motorbikes and motorbike parts was $355 million (about £221m). The country is estimated to have imported $101 million (about £63m) worth of 81,000 completed built unit (CBU) motorbikes in the first ten months of the year. In October alone, the country is expected to spend $8 million (£5m) on importing 9,000 CBU motorbikes2.

Indeed, motorbikes are a common sight on the roads of Vietnam, with many of the Vietnamese seeing the motorbike as a bionic limb as much as a mode of transportation. Many Vietnamese park their bikes in their living rooms and see legs and feet merely as backup forms of transport, to be used only as a last resort. Motorbikes are often seen swarming through the streets and onto the sidewalks, honking as they weave their way past obstacles. They are often weighed down with the likes of plate glass, doors, household appliances and even amusement park props.

There has been a continuous increase in the number of motorbikes in Vietnam, and it is now estimated that there are almost 20 million of them, according to the World Bank. There are an estimated 3 million purely in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), equating to about one motorbike for every two people in the city. “Motos” make up the largest portion of vehicles to be found on Vietnamese roads, and are defined as small engine, 50cc to 400cc motorbikes3.

The country’s rampant love affair with motorbikes has been associated with a substantial number of collisions, particularly on the country’s highways, with 80% of the world’s traffic accidents, according to the World Health Organization, said to take place in South East Asia4. Hence, the Government of Vietnam has become stricter in dealing with the country’s abundance of motorcycles by introducing, as of the beginning of March 2009, hefty fines for those motorcyclists caught with out-of-date motorbike insurance.

Despite this, there remains a great interest in motorbikes in Vietnam, along with a kamikaze attitude to road rules and safety. Although a law mandating the use of helmets has recently come into effect, their use was previously very rare, with their mocking nickname of “rice cookers” being a fair representation of the citizens’ attitude to wearing them.

Charlotte Walker writes for MediaVest (Manchester) on a number of motor related topics, including ways to compare car insurance .