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Traffic Safety in China

Updated on May 23, 2010

Traffic Safety

This is China, we say, when we cannot explain things.  China has one of the biggest road tolls of any country - I think recently been overtaken by India.  In some provinces/cities the traffic is quite "ordered" though others it is chaotic.

Where I am it is extra ordinary.  Road rules seem to be broken at every opportunity - though I confess to having absolutely no idea what any of them are.  Being a passenger in a car, bus or taxi is an experience that sometimes takes one's break away.

I remember that during the Olympics a television news program featured film of three people on an e-bike or motor cycle, something like above.  I laughed.  It is a daily occurance.  No, more than that.  Every hour you can see a dozen or more even if you stand on one spot - of a couple and one or two children on a wheeled machine as above.

This woman whizzed past me quite fast - hence the little blurriness, but just previously a woman had ridden past with two children on her bike.  Helmets?  No need.  If it is the law, no one does.  Rarely do you see someone with a helmet.

It is not uncommon for a couple with one child standing between the driver and the handle bars, and the mother holding a tiny baby riding on the back.  None have any chance if there is an accident.  Awesome.

I've reported on trucks with piles of things in the back with two or three men sitting way on top.  No helmets, no safety system of any type.

Cars all have seat belts, but until today I had never worn one in a car in China.  Most don't work.  When I've asked before, there was complete indifference.  Why have seat belts and not use them I ask?  Usually it is because they don't work.  Taxi drivers nearly go into a frenzy if you try to put one on - as if the back wheels will fall off when you click it into place.

In Australia we never cross the double lines in the middle of the road - but it China it seems to be a challenge.  People seem to be unfazed with a car headed straight for them on the freeway.  I must say they are good at dodging.

The other day a car passed us at excessive speed - passing a police car (and a tricked up modern one at that!) and the police car didn't seem to notice.

Buses are often overcrowded, trucks are overloaded, and all the safety rules that we like to adhere to (or like others to adhere to) don't seem to be on the radar here.  When I think about it, it is scary, but somehow I manage to cope without getting too stressed about it.

My students had to write an article about an accident the other day, and I was quite depresssed after reading page after page of fatal accidents, or simple bicycle accidednts that left the victim (often the student) in hospital.  I don't know if they were using the creative side or whether it was true, but I gather many have seen some rather awful accidents.

Like a lot of things in China, despite the vision we see in the media of a very modern progressive community, they have some areas where there is a lot of room for improvement.  Traffic management is one of them.


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