China Road Rage Cases Top 17 Million So Far in 2015 – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Chinese police attributed 80,200 traffic accidents in 2013 to road rage, and the number rose by 2.4% in 2014. Men account for 97% of road rage incidents, official data show.

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China is a notoriously dangerous place for driving in general. The World Health Organization has estimated that 261,000 people died on China’s roads in 2013. Chinese government data show that last year 1,895 people died in traffic accidents when crossing roads, and 4,180 people died between 2011 and 2014 on public buses that were speeding or overloaded.

Yet when it comes to the surge in road rage, experts point to a range of possible explanations. One is that the rapid development of China’s car market has led the country’s roads to become increasingly crowded, creating frustration and anger on the streets. Sociologists also link road rage to general anxiety and fickleness, one of the side products of China’s rapid economic growth — and its accompanying social pressure — over the past three decades.

In China, the total number of vehicles has increased by more than 18 million cars for each of the past five years. As of the end of October, China had 169 million autos, according to Ministry of Public Security statistics, next only to the U.S.’s 240 million. The number of license-holders has risen even more quickly; since 2010, China has added more than 20 million new drivers each year. Now one in five Chinese has a license.

The country’s infrastructure has struggled to keep up. Data from the Ministry of Public Security show that 35 Chinese cities now have more than one million automobiles. Ten of those cities — including Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen – each have more than two million cars on the road. But while the number of China’s motor vehicles and drivers has each risen more than 20-fold since 1987, the country’s road capacity has increased only 3.4 times over the same period.

The rash of new drivers is also posing safety hazards. The official Xinhua News Agency cited a spokesman from the Ministry of Public Security as saying that drivers with less than one year of experience play a large role in traffic accidents. To be sure, China has some safety regulations in place. For example, drivers and front-seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts, and the use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited. But these laws are often ignored in practice. Distracted driving – operating a vehicle while texting, talking on the phone, watching videos, eating or reading – contributed to more than a third of fatal traffic accidents in 2014, causing 21,570 deaths, the Ministry of Public Security said.

Chinese authorities are working to counter the trend. In the past month, the Ministry of Public Security launched a public education campaign on road etiquette after several high-profile cases of road rage violence this year. It advocated against dangerous driving behaviors including street racing, drunk driving, aggressive driving and blocking emergency lanes.

Source: China Road Rage Cases Top 17 Million So Far in 2015 – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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