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Hundreds of drunken drivers nabbed by police
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16:35, August 19, 2009

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More than 3,000 motorists across the nation were caught driving under the influence of alcohol last weekend, including 435 drunken drivers.

The citations and arrests were made during the first weekend of a two-month campaign to educate drivers about the dangers of combining alcohol and driving, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Ministry officials said Tuesday that 3,167 drivers were caught on Saturday and Sunday, with 435 detained with a blood alcohol content of at least 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. Some were detained with much higher alcohol content. China's legal limit is 0.08.

As part of the crackdown, larger police forces are patrolling bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues in Beijing, Shanghai, Liaoning, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hubei and Guangdong.

Guangzhou police caught 101 drivers under the influence on the first night of the campaign.

In Beijing, some restaurants are posting notices on walls and on tables to remind motorists about their responsibility on the road.

A driver hands over a bottle of wine to a policeman, saying "try more, it's for you," when he was stopped by for a sobriety test in Shangqiu, Henan province, Saturday night, August 16, 2009. [Asianewsphoto]

"Usually if a group of guests come by in a car, the driver won't drink. If he does, we will remind him," said a waitress surnamed Cui from Longfuyuan restaurant in Beijing.

Fewer drivers are drinking alcohol nowadays, especially this week since many know about the campaign, she said.

Wu Yuliang, commissar of Guanganmen traffic police team, said some drivers think a glass of beer is not a problem. After a breathalyzer test, however, their alcohol content registers more than 20mg per 100 ml, which is classified as driving under the influence of alcohol.

"We all know driving after drinking is not right, but on some occasions it seems unavoidable," said Xu Yang, a white collar worker in his 30s from Beijing, who admitted that he used to drive after drinking.

"I have to drink when having dinner with my customers," he said, "or else it is difficult to get contracts signed."

Xu said after hearing about some drunken driving accidents recently, he is trying to avoid driving to restaurants.

In Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong province, restaurant managers and storeowners said they have suffered declines in profit during the campaign.

A man, stopped by a policeman, has his blood-alcohol level checked on a road in Hanshan county, East China's Anhui province, August 17, 2009. [Asianewsphoto]

Minghao cigarette and alcohol retail store had recorded a 10-percent drop in alcohol sales since Aug 15, with the situation expected to worsen in the coming days, said the store owner surnamed Lin.

A Japanese-style restaurant called Tsukiji in Guangzhou has also experienced a downturn, according to an unnamed manager, who said the crackdown has magnified the economic pains brought by the global recession.

"I am worried that we may not be able to survive with the campaign going on," the manager said.

Some bars and restaurants in Guangzhou have started hiring drivers for their drunken clients.

Liu Jiawen, owner of Guangzhou Jintu Car Rental Co, is among the few who have gained from the crackdown.

His company offers driving services for drunken drivers and is so busy that it now takes up to seven days in advance for an appointment.

China Youth Daily recently conducted an online survey last week in response to the campaign.

More than 95 percent of 1,792 participants admit they have witnessed motorists driving after drinking; 44.4 percent say it occurs frequently.

When asked about the reason why so many people drive after drinking, 70 percent chose the answer of "Drivers think they won't be found by the police." About 69 percent answered: "Because the cost of breaking the law is low."

About 81 percent of the participants, when asked about the severity of penalties for driving after drinking in China, said they are too light, while 11.1 percent said they are appropriate. Slightly more than 1 percent said the penalties are too severe, while 6.4 percent said they "don't clearly know the regulations."

Ding Liming, a professor of traffic management from Renmin University, said most motorists are not afraid of driving after drinking because they believe the chances of being caught are slim.

"Some cities are not strict enough in checking illegal. That's why it is difficult to prevent it from happening," Ding said.

The professor said he hopes that strict patrolling will continue after the campaign because drunken driving incidents will rebound quickly without enforcement.

During the two-month campaign, those who drive after drinking and have a blood-alcohol content between 20 mg and 80 mg per 100 ml will have their licenses suspended for three months with a fine of 500 yuan.

Drunken drivers with a blood alcohol content of 80 mg per 100 ml or more are detained for 15 days and stripped of their licenses for six months, with a fine of 2,000 yuan.

If a drunken driver is caught twice within a year, the license will be revoked for two to five years.

Source: China Daily

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