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December 3, 2012

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Ignoring red lights cause of 798 deaths this year

Ignoring red lights, by both vehicles and pedestrians, has killed 56 people in more than 200 accidents in Shanghai so far this year, according to traffic police.

Mopeds and scooters were involved in 24 of the deaths.

Nationwide, running red lights caused 4,227 accidents and 798 deaths in the first 10 months of 2012, the Ministry of Public Security said.

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

A road safety day was "absolutely necessary," said Li Keping, professor in the traffic engineering department at Shanghai's Tongji University, who suggests that road safety courses should be included in the school curriculum.

In an online survey organized by the ministry and China Youth Daily, 67 percent of 10,682 participants admitted to ignoring red lights. At the same time, 72.1 percent voted such violations "the worst behavior" on the road, according to the results published yesterday.

Some 93.6 percent of respondents acknowledged that traffic lights should be followed, while only 80.1 percent said they fully understood the signals. Nearly 60 percent of the participants were driving license holders, Xinhua news agency reported.

As to the reason for ignoring red lights whether as a driver or a pedestrian, 63.4 percent said they were following what others did and 40.6 percent believed they would never be punished.

"Ignoring traffic lights is not only a key reason leading to traffic accidents," traffic police in Shanghai said. "It also greatly affects the efficiency of daily commuting."

Police said accidents at intersections were becoming more common as traffic volume increased in the city.

As of the end of October, 2012, China had 238 million vehicles and 256 million drivers, according to ministry data.

Traffic light violations by pedestrians have become so frequent that a new phrase "collectively walking the red light" has been coined to describe the situation where people ignore traffic lights and jaywalk in a group.

Traffic police say it is impossible to punish such behavior as pedestrians would either deny wrongdoing or just flee.

People tend to ignore red lights when the waiting time exceeds their maximum patience time, a university study has found.

Ni Ying, who led the research at Tongji University's School of Transportation Engineering, said a lot of traffic lights in China were "vehicle-friendly rather than pedestrian-friendly."

The Tongji study found that at some intersections, pedestrians could wait for more than two minutes before getting the green light to cross. An average person's patience while waiting for lights to change would run out after about 90 seconds, the study found.

Professor Jin Huiqing, director of China's Vehicle Safety Engineering Technology Research Center, said traffic management should pay more attention to the use of current road resources, such as the siting of underground passes or overpasses and whether the duration of lights was reasonable.

"Smooth traffic and a low accident rate are the basic goals of traffic safety and are what people want as well," Jin said.


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