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Designated driver services booming in big cities

By Wang Xiaodong (China Daily)

14:00, May 30, 2012

A car with an electronic sign on its roof saying "designated driver service" waits for customers on Beijing's Gongti Xilu, which is lined with bars and nightclubs. (Xue Jun for China Daily)

A year after drunken driving became punishable as a crime, drivers in China have become more serious about road safety, resulting in the rapidly developing yet unregulated designated driver business.

"We can receive 300 orders every day on average, nearly double the figure for the same period last year," said Liu Jing, a manager of Changyinwuyou, a company that provides designated driver service in Beijing.

As many as 500 people may call on a busy day, but the company can only handle fewer than 300 orders daily, Liu said. Designated driver services charge by distance, she added.

"Strict monitoring and regulations carried out in recent years contributed to the increase in people's awareness of the danger posed by drunken driving or driving under the influence of alcohol," said Liu.

"Unlike several years ago when we started our business, now many customers would seek designated drivers even if they have just had a little amount of wine," Liu said. "Those who are really drunk only account for less than 5 percent of our total customers."

China amended its Criminal Law on May 1 last year, stipulating that all drunken driving constitutes a criminal offense, regardless of whether road accidents or other serious consequences occur.

Under the new law, drivers caught drunken driving will have their licenses revoked and could face a prison term of one to six months.

Official figures show a fall in the number of drunken driving cases in China.

According to the Ministry of Public Security's Traffic Management Bureau, from May 1 last year to April 20, traffic police handled 354,000 cases of driving under the influence of alcohol nationwide, down by 41.7 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. Drunken driving cases totaled 54,000, registering a 44.1 percent drop.

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