Drivers in China will have to pay more attention to traffic rules or risk paying much higher penalties, according to a revised regulation that takes effect on Tuesday.
The regulation on the application and use of driving licenses, issued by the Ministry of Public Security in October, aims to bring drivers under greater oversight and prevent traffic violations, the ministry said.
The revised regulation imposes much heavier penalties on drivers who violate traffic rules. Under it, 52 different sorts of violations can result in punishment, up from 38 under the previous regulation.
The new regulation also makes the penalties for certain common traffic violations stricter. Running a red light can result in the deduction of six points from an offender’s driving license, up from three points under the previous regulation. And people who purposely cover up a vehicle’s license plate can lose 12 points, enough for their licenses to be suspended.
Some other common violations, such as speeding, making phone calls while driving, and drinking and driving, will also result in heavier penalties.
The deduction of 12 points from a driving license over the course of a year will lead to the suspension of that license. To get it back, a driver will have to undergo training and pass a test.
Eleven kinds of violations will result in the deduction of 12 points, up from six under the previous regulation. Such violations include driving and drinking, using fake plates and hitting something and driving off.
“The harsher penalties may force more drivers to follow traffic regulations,” said Chen Yanyan, a professor at Beijing University of Technology’s Transport Research Center.
“Compared with some other countries, the punishments for traffic violations in China are less severe, which has failed to do enough to deter potential offenders,” she said.
More than 68,000 road accidents, resulting in 794 deaths, occurred in China during the National Day holiday this year, which lasted from Sept 30 to Oct 7, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
In 2011, 62,000 people died from road accidents, ministry figures showed, and there were 27 accidents that caused at least 10 deaths each. All of them were the result of serious traffic violations such as speeding and overloading, according to the ministry.
In the latest large accident, 11 kindergarten students died after a school van carrying them overturned and plunged into a roadside pond in Guixi, Jiangxi province, on Dec 24.
The van, which had a mere seven seats, was transporting 17 children at the time of the accident. The person behind the wheel was also the headmaster at the kindergarten and had only been driving for a year, China Central Television reported.
The number of new vehicles on Chinese roads has been increasing by about 20 million annually in the past several years. By the end of 2011, more than 200 million automobiles were in use in the country.
“With the rapid increase in the number of motor vehicles and drivers, the number of accidents that have caused casualties has also increased in recent years,” the ministry said in a press release.
“The harsher punishments called for by the new regulation are expected to increase the cost of committing traffic violations and help to improve road safety.”Traffic violations are common in many places in China.
A survey conducted by the ministry’s traffic management bureau and China Youth Daily polled 10,682 people in November and found that two-thirds of them admitted to running red lights, even though more than 93 percent said that traffic signals should be followed. And more than 69 percent said they are in favor of seeing traffic violators subjected to harsher punishments.
“Traffic violations are quite common,” said a marketing manager at an IT company in Beijing who would only provide her surname, Liang.
Liang has held a driving license for 10 years and drives to work every day.
“Traffic rules still don’t seem to be followed very well, especially if you compare what’s happening here with what you see in cities in certain other countries, such as the United States,” said Liang, who often takes international business trips.
Liang also admitted that she had run red and yellow lights on several occasions.
“Sometimes when I’ve been hurrying to get to a place, I’ve sped up to get through a yellow light,” Liang said.
“I know that’s against the rules, but traffic in Beijing is so bad, I sometimes can’t afford to wait.”Liang said she had also run red lights for no reason, either because she was “distracted” or because a larger vehicle in front of her had obstructed her vision. Fortunately, she said, the police have never noticed those last-minute bolts.
Despite her minor transgressions, Liang said she is in favor of the new regulation.
“I think the punishments imposed on violators of traffic rules should be heavier,” she said. “Otherwise, people will simply ignore the rules.”