From At War With The Motorist today…
From the World Health Organisation’s Multi-Sectoral Forum on Road Safety in China (March 2008), on driving in a country where over a quarter of a million die on the roads each year:
Both lack of awareness to risks and inexperience means that people all over the world, not just in China, are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviour such as speeding, driving without a seatbelt or a helmet, and drink driving. Without action, the road injury toll will only worsen, because it is a well know fact that basic road safety measures like seatbelts and helmets save lives. The more commonplace they become in China, the more lives will be saved on the roads.
I was shocked by the reckless behaviour of Beijing’s 5 million car drivers and their passengers: I did not see a single one of them wearing a helmet. Were they to be involved in a collision, a helmet might mean the difference between life and death.
More interestingly, while seatbelts are compulsory in China, most Beijing taxis halve the cost of seatbelts by only installing one half of the belt per seat — either the belt or the socket is present; rarely both. More interesting still is the curious and bizarre fact that a third of Beijing taxi drivers only pretend to wear their seatbelt.
The most shocking thing of all, though, is that Beijing has provided the visitor to the city with a fleet of convenient taxis — but where were the helmets for passengers to use?