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Driver in collision with authorities

THIRTY-YEAR-OLD Peng Wei will rue the day he came up with the scheme of causing minor accidents to make insurance claims, because prosecutors are accusing him of threatening other people's lives. He now faces years behind bars.

Police allege he received about 3,000 (US$438.9) yuan in insurance claims from seven minor collisions during the first nine months of last year. None of the crashes caused any injuries.

In all the accidents, the other drivers were blamed because they violated traffic rules. This helped him win his insurance claims.

But his profits were only a few hundred yuan as he had to pay for the repairs to his car.

"I only expected to make a little money so I could cover my gas bills," he allegedly told police. "I never thought the result could be so serious."

Peng is only one among a string of drivers who allegedly keep a watchful eye on the street and seize any chance to get involved in collisions they can blame on other motorists.

However, he may be the first one to go to jail in Shanghai for such a scam. In previous cases, drivers who intentionally got into scrapes were accused of defrauding their insurance firm, and since the insurance payments involved were always trivial, the drivers were only fined by the court or sentenced to probation.

But the frequency of Peng's collisions alarmed the Yangpu District prosecutors, who decided to have him punished severely.

"He could not predict what would happen when he got into a collision," said a district prosecutor.

"If the other car carried physically weak passengers, such as pregnant women, seniors or children, or if its driver was inexperienced, Peng could have caused serious injuries," the prosecutor said.

Peng has been charged with "jeopardizing public safety," a crime punishable with at least three years in jail, and which has no allowance for probation.

In all the cases, Peng hit the other vehicles from behind, speeding up after seeing them swerving or cutting into a lane up ahead. China's traffic rules state that vehicles making a turn or changing lanes must wait for one car from behind to pass them first.

Li Ming, a traffic officer in Yangpu District, noticed Peng's dubious accident record in September.

Peng was detained after causing his latest accident on September 17. A court will hear his case soon.


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