China is a Nation of Red Light Jumpers

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Chinese drivers like jumping red lights according to this report from Xinhua. In my own experience, with at least a decade on Chinese roads, Chinese drivers are jumping red lights because others are busy jumping red lights due to the previous red light jumpers blocking up the interchange area, you follow? This is a common sight at any inner city traffic interchange and comes down to a ‘me first!‘ mentality.

From January 1st next year all red light jumpers will be hit with a 6 point penalty, if you hit the magical 12 points then you can consider your license to drive terminated. Will that be enough to deter drivers, or will it simply up the number of drivers with fake plates and magnetic numbers over their license plates?

In an online survey released on Sunday, 67 percent of 10,682 participants admitted to running red lights.

At the same time, 72.1 percent voted such violations “the worst behavior” on the road, according to the results published on

The survey, jointly undertaken by the traffic management division under the Ministry of Public Security and China Youth Daily, was conducted last week as part of activities ahead of the country’s first national day for road safety, which falls on Sunday.

The timing of the event was chosen partly because Dec. 2 looks like 122, the telephone number for reporting traffic accidents in China.

Some 93.6 percent of respondents acknowledged that traffic lights should be followed, while only 80.1 percent said they fully understand the signals.

Nearly 60 percent of the participants hold a driving license.

As to the reason for such violations, 63.4 percent said they were following what others did and 40.6 percent believed that they would never be punished for their actions.

According to the ministry, running red lights caused 4,227 road accidents in China, involving 798 deaths, in the first 10 months of 2012.

Experts attribute the danger and lack of traffic order to city planners failing to pay the same attention to pedestrians or cyclists as to drivers.

It’s absolutely necessary to set up a road safety day, said Li Keping, professor in traffic engineering at the Shanghai-based Tongji University, who also suggested including road safety courses in the national education system.

As of the end of October, 2012, China has 238 million vehicles and 256 million drivers, according to an earlier report from the ministry.

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  • Alfred Croucher
    December 4, 2012

    I have four years experience driving in China and many more living here.

    Chinese drivers are generally more conservative than drivers overseas and drive more slowly than say, we do in Australia. This may have to do with the way pedestrians take to the road with not apparent concern for their safety.

    This applies to red lights where they are generally slow to respond once stationary, as result left turning traffic usually rushes to turn before they move off. The problem is that for the most part, bus and truck drivers, riders of bicycles and motor bikes tend to disregard red lights which makes it extremely dangerous to speed through a green light.

    Generally the rules of the road are observed to the same degree that all laws are observed in China. That is, not at all if inconvenient. Living in small cities and towns is worse than big towns where a relative degree of order is retained. Here the taxi driver will complain if you wear the safety belt, noting that it is only for big cities. In some semi-legal local tourist transport there will not be seat belts fitted. I’ve had some terrifying rides where I had to remind myself that as a young fellow we never wore safety belts either and still mostly lived to tell the tale.

  • Cory
    December 4, 2012

    Alfred, do you live on the East coast? Here in Chengdu the majority of drivers do not wear their seat belts. They’ve recently installed cameras at every other stop light and are adding more every day. It has had some effect although not enough to really make a difference.

    Sometimes while driving I’ll look over at other drivers to see if they are wearing their seat belts. I’ve found that literally like 1 out of 5 drivers is actually wearing a seat belt. They are usually driving a non-Chinese car that costs more than 150k. I’ve also found that the worst drivers who almost never wear their seat belts are the proud owners of those tiny microvans that plague every Chinese city. I would speculate that is related to a lower overall education and growing up in an area that would be considered backwards by Western standards. Before anyone criticizes me about that last statement I will also add that the US has PLENTY of backwards areas to keep things fair.

    Last time I was in Beijing, I noticed that more people did in fact wear their seat belts but the overwhelming majority still did not. I’m sure this will improve over time as entire families become statistics out of pure stupidity/ignorance.

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