Why China Has the Highest Traffic Fatalities in the World

Although China did not have the highest number of vehicle registrations in the world, it has held the record of having the highest road accident fatalities in the world–every year, for the past decade.

During the past decade, China’s average annual number of traffic accidents was over 500,000, with an average annual death toll of more than 100,000.

In 2009 China only had 3 percent of the world’s car registrations, but its road accident death toll was 16 percent of the world total.

According to a March 2012 Guangzhou Daily report, China had 104 million car registrations in 2011, but 62,000 deaths from road accidents. During the same year, Japan had over 70 million registered cars, but only 4,611 people died. In the United States, 285 million cars were registered, and 42,000 people died in road accidents.

Driver’s Licenses for Sale

One of the reasons for China’s high road accident fatalities is that many people don’t go through the driving test. According to China’s traffic regulations, one must attend a driver’s education school and then pass a driving test to get a driver’s license. But everyone in China knows that quite a few people buy a driver’s license through connections. With law enforcement being quite lax in this regard, most people learn how to drive by themselves or get some informal training from a friend after purchasing a car.

Ignoring Traffic Rules

It’s not uncommon to see people in China jaywalking, taking short cuts, or scaling fences, regardless of the existence of overhead passages and pedestrian crossings.

In 2011, among the traffic accident fatalities, the number of pedestrians dying from violating traffic regulations accounted for one fourth of total traffic fatalities nationwide.

Drivers’ bad temper, drunk driving, running red lights, illegal overtaking, and driver fatigue, are also common reasons for accidents.

Poor Traffic Management

There are over one hundred different kinds of traffic lights in China, including ones with and without countdown timers, separate left-turn signals, and ones with left-turn signals connecting to the main traffic light. This can easily cause confusion. In addition, some traffic lights are not high enough, while some intersections don’t have any traffic lights, making them prone to accidents.

Many highway road signs are also too complicated. Some signs have 20 to 30 characters, making it difficult for drivers to absorb the information.

Light Traffic Fines

Light traffic fines in China are ineffective in deterring traffic violations such as speeding. According to a May 2009 Hangzhou Net News report, six children from rich Chinese families raced on the road from Italy to France in their Ferrari and Lamborghini, with speeds reaching 229 km/hr. The local court fined them an equivalent to 1.31 million yuan (US$210,000). In China, however, a similar offence will result in only 3 demerit points on one’s driver’s license and a fine of just over 100 yuan (US$16.26).

Translation by Billy Xu and Tan Hohua. Written in English by Gisela Sommer.

Read the original Chinese article.