Drunken driving cases down by 35%

09:07, May 19, 2011      

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The number of people found driving while drunk fell sharply across the country during the past two weeks, following the amended Criminal Law taking effect on May 1, which makes possible much harsher punishments.

A total of 2,038 drunken drivers were rounded up between May 1 and 15 - an average of 136 each day. The number was down by 35 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the traffic management department of the Ministry of Public Security.

At the same time, the number of people who were killed or injured in traffic accidents connected to drunken driving also fell - by 37.8 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively.

Drivers who are found with 80 milligrams of alcohol or more per 100 milliliters of blood are considered drunk under the law.

"The implementation of the amended Criminal Law and new traffic law has played a significant role in the decrease in drunken driving cases," Liu Chunyu, press officer from the traffic management department of the Ministry of Public Security, told China Daily on Wednesday.

Since May 1, drivers who are found to be drunk can face prison terms of between one and six months as well as have their licenses revoked for five years.

Drunken drivers who cause a death or who injure two or more people can be banned from driving for life and face severe criminal punishments that include the death penalty.

However, there are still questions about the implementation of the new laws.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, the police nationwide have investigated drunken driving cases as criminal acts since the amended laws took effect.

"Once drunken drivers are caught, we treat them as criminal suspects for investigation according to the amended law," said Liu.

However, Zhang Jun, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, cited Article 13 of the Criminal Law last week when he said that not all drunken drivers should be treated as criminals because some only cause minor harm to society.

Some commentators said Zhang's opinions differed from the law, which stipulates drunken driving is a crime, regardless of whether the driver causes additional problems. Other pundits, though, have supported the top court's call to show leniency toward drunken drivers, saying people convicted of a crime would face a bleak future.

Liu acknowledged that the prospect of a harsher punishment could also pressure some suspects to try to escape from the police.

"Some drunken drivers try to race away from our checkpoints and have injured traffic police officers on duty in an attempt to avoid the punishments," she said.

Such drivers will be given additional administrative punishments for interfering with the work of the police and those who cause injury will be given criminal penalties, she said.

Li Guifang, vice-head of the criminal defense committee under the All China Lawyers Association, told China Daily: "Although the amended law plays a major role in preventing serious traffic accidents caused by drunken driving, treating all kinds of drunken driving as a criminal offense is too harsh.

"Drinking is a traditional custom in China and the law enforcement departments should publish detailed and strict standards to define under which circumstances suspects should be subject to administrative detention or criminal punishment."

Source:China Daily
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