China’s roads saw 37,000 fatalities and 189,000 injured from 159,000 accidents in the first six months of this year, figures from the traffic management department of the Ministry of Public security have revealed. Large though they are the number of road accidents was down 16.9 percent, deaths down 12.2%, injuries down 15.2% on the same period last year. Signalling its awareness of the economic cost of its unsafe roads the statistics noted losses caused by road accidents were down 29.6 percent to 540 million yuan (approximately US$71 million dollars).

“The ministry attributed the reduction of road accidents to improved road safety awareness and observance of the road rules among motorists, particularly when it came to overloading, speeding and fatigue driving, the three major causes of road accidents,” a report by the official Xinhua newsagency added. A counter explanation is that increasing numbers of cars lead to more congested roads with drivers unable, at least in the urban areas to take risks, matched by increasing experience among them.

China has enforced tougher driving test regulations since April to improve the drivers’ safety awareness. New regulations require learners to pass at least 10 out of 13 practical tests, which include changing lanes, crossing intersections and night driving. Applicants will also be tested on real roads with a single-way traffic flow of at least 60 cars/hour. Learners in mountainous areas will take additional tests on roads with tunnels, culverts and steep slopes, according to the new regulations..

DATED: 1st August 2007