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Moped, scooter drivers deadly

(Shanghai Daily)

09:32, October 14, 2011

An electric scooter is seen wedged between vehicles on a downtown street yesterday. Violations of traffic rules by scooters and mopeds are rampant in the city.

THE frequent traffic accidents involving mopeds and scooters, many of them fatal, shed light on reckless drivers in the city, but enforcement is very difficult for authorities.

The riders on mopeds and scooters running red lights, speeding or driving into car lanes, a common scene at busy crossroads, are a headache for traffic police who already are overwhelmed by the dangerous tactics of car and truck drivers on crowded roads.

"The small mopeds can cause big trouble," Wang Denghai, traffic police chief in downtown Zhabei District, said yesterday.

This year, traffic accidents involving bikes, mopeds and scooters have accounted for 269 deaths, more than 40 percent of all traffic fatalities in Shanghai. In most cases, riders should have borne at least as much responsibility as vehicle drivers, say police. Some officers worry that the situations "are getting worse."

In a citywide crackdown yesterday, police spotted many moped and scooter riders driving recklessly and fearlessly at busy intersections, even with officers present. Maneuvering among moving vehicle flows at the crossing of Hutai and Hengfeng roads in Zhabei District, a moped tried to rush through after the light had turned red about 7am. The rider was stopped by an officer and fined 5 yuan (78 US cents).

In most cases, of course, violators won't be stopped, as officers and traffic assistants simply watch them pass. Officers say they are hard to catch and stop one by one because of their sheer numbers.

"They dash toward the roads just like a school of fish," said officer Yang Zhenqing in Zhabei District. "More often than not, they just run the red lights all together."

At the busy intersection of Yuyuan and Wanhangdu road snear Jing'an Temple, traffic assistants sometimes stand on the pedestrian pass, or crosswalk, using their bodies to block the eager bikes and mopeds from crossing the line. "They are fast and seem to come out all of a sudden," said a driver.

A migrant worker, surnamed Yan, a frequent moped rider, said he was hit and injured by another moped before the holiday and police ruled both shared responsibilities.

The city now has more than 13 million mopeds, scooters and bikes. About 280,000 use gas and 3 million use electricity. Migrant workers have become the main owners of mopeds sand scooters. They usually do not have license plates or carry out-of-town ones, police said.

Police said the top allowed speed for scooters and mopeds is 15 kilometers per hour. But officers found during routine checks that 80 percent of them exceed that speed.

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