Driving mad! 4m cars clog Beijing roads (3)

14:15, December 21, 2009      

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'Driving culture' to blame

The latest data from the traffic management bureau shows that in the three months from August, 213,000 dunk-driving incidents resulted in 32,000 crashes, with 600 people killed.

Additionally, in 2008, 45 percent of traffic casualties were caused by speeding and drunk driving.

Reining in lawbreakers has also been a headache for local police, who are dwarfed by the number of vehicles on the road.

Gao Feng, an official with the Haidian Traffic Squad, noted, "With 6,000 traffic police currently in force, there is a huge shortage of manpower to handle the traffic."

People from other countries, even from those notorious for traffic problems, have been surprised by the traffic in Beijing.

"Driving in London is a headache, but driving in Beijing is a nightmare," said George Cuzzocrea, a British expatriate who has been driving in Beijing for four years.

"Drivers don't follow the rules. Even the traffic police cars don't follow them. No one seems to give consideration to other drivers," he said.

Peter Davis, an American in Beijing, said China is essentially a nation of "teenage" drivers – many of whom went straight from bicycles to automobiles and are the first in their families to drive.

Liang Wei, a former staff member with the Beijing Municipal Roadway Administration Bureau, told the Global Times that a deep-rooted bureaucratic culture in China has also contributed to the rising number of cars on the road and poor traffic.

Military and State government cars often defy the municipal traffic rules, reports have said.

Other experts said it's not a matter of how many cars the city has now, it's whether people abide by the traffic laws.

"Four million is not a big number compared with other metropolises such as Tokyo and New York City where traffic is much better," said Niu Fengrui, director of the Urban Development Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The best solution, he said, is to upgrade road design and traffic-management expertise, and be more strict in enforcing the rules of the road. A public education course to teach the drivers how to follow those rules and respect each other is also necessary, he said.

Liang Chen contributed to this story
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