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August 6, 2009

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Teenager's death fans fears over road safety

HANGZHOU police are investigating the death of a 16-year-old girl who was killed on Tuesday night by a car driven by a suspected drunk driver in a case that has renewed public debate over the safety of the city's roads.

Local media reported that the teen, Ma Fangfang, was killed in a pedestrian crossing just two weeks after the sentencing of drag racer Hu Bin to three years in jail for killing a young man on another city crossing in May.

The crosswalk where migrant worker Ma was killed on Tuesday had been widened from 4 meters to 7 meters by the municipal government after the May accident.

A police spokesman in the Zhejiang Province capital said investigators were still seeking to determine whether Ma was, in fact, on the pedestrian crossing when she was hit by the car. Witness accounts differed from that of the driver.

Witnesses said the teenager was thrown a significant distance from the car. She died an hour later in hospital. Ma, originally from Linhai City in Zhejiang Province, was out with friends at the time of the mishap.

Driver detained

Police detained the driver of the vehicle, Wei Zhigang, 29, and said that a breath test showed he had been drinking.

In a bid to raise public awareness on road safety, the Hangzhou government painted red hearts and the words "You and I share the road of love" between the lines of the crosswalk.

Hangzhou Party chief Wang Guoping expressed condolences for Ma's death and ordered severe punishment for the driver.

"We will take prompt and decisive actions to fight speeding and drinking and driving to ensure public safety," Wang said.

But some members of the public were still concerned.

"I am proud to live in this scenic city of Hangzhou but had never thought it to be a place where people were killed in a pedestrian crossing," wrote a Netizen nicknamed Angry Youth on the online forum

Road to heaven?

"Does the pedestrian crossing lead to heaven?" another person wrote. Others called on the government to take measures to prevent similar accidents from happening.

The previous traffic fatality in Hangzhou that raised a public outcry occurred on May 7. In that case, motorist Hu Bin, 20, came under fierce criticism for drag racing at speeds up to 101 kilometers per hour on a downtown road with a speed limit of 50.

Hu paid 1.13 million yuan (US$165,400) in compensation to the family of the victim before a district court in Hangzhou handed down a sentence of three years in prison. Thousands of Hangzhou citizens gathered in the street after the accident to mourn the victim.


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