China, the world’s second-largest economy, is also the world’s leading country in terms of on-road traffic accident and casualties. Despite this negative distinction, China has fought long and hard in the battle against traffic-related incidents. Over the last 13 years, China has managed to successfully assuage the effects of traffic-related incidents, even as more and more of the Chinese populace owns cars and tests the limits of its strained highway infrastructure.
Chinese Traffic Accidents: 2000-2005
To put the rapid urbanization and acceleration in automobile across this region into perspective, we must take a look back at the 1980s when the first surge of per capita GDP increases appeared. Between that time and 2005, the overall growth per capita was approximately 40 times the GDP relative to previous decades. The growth was consistent, with an annual per capita GDP increase of around 10 percent being recorded during this period.
Consequently, it is more than logical that the overall economic status of the country has also improved as well, and individuals having more discretionary income. With this increased economic freedom and consumer purchasing power came an increase in the number of vehicles owned per household. The shift became even more marked after the turn of the millennium: in 2000, the number of motor vehicle drivers was 3,747 per 10,000 people and. By 2005, that figure had more than doubled to 8,018 drivers per 10,000 people.
This increased ease of access to motor vehicles and subsequent use of highways posed a new problem to the nation– an increase in the casualties caused by traffic accidents. In 2000, were 418,721 casualties in motor vehicle accidents, in comparison to 41,945 in the US during that time. Little changed in China in following years, and by 2005 the annual number of casualties recorded had reached 469,911.
The Chinese Fight against Traffic Casualties: 2006-2010
Seeing the need for highway reform, the national government sought practical solutions to this issue, passing new traffic laws and creating drivers’ education facilities to teach vehicular first aid practices and proper driving techniques. This proactive effort paid dividends, and within just a couple of years, deaths resulting from traffic accidents in China decreased markedly. While in 2006, the numbers were still high (431,139), by 2010 the country had reduced traffic fatalities to 254,075.
The Fight Continues
Slowly but surely, the numbers of casualties continued to decrease following 2011, a report by the Chinese government suggests. In 2011, the number of casualties went down further still to 237,421. In 2013, when the last official information available was released, casualties in Chinese traffic accidents were down to 213,724, less than half of the number of vehicular deaths registered in 2005.
Currently, the Chinese is implementing a far-reaching traffic safety awareness program. In 2005, following the examples of other developed countries who had already taken such measures, the Chinese nation began to make up ground in the fight against drunk driving, speeding and jaywalking.
Today, China is a world leader in road infrastructure, with as many as 111,950 km (69,560 miles) in their national highway system. The Chinese have already made significant expansions to enforce driving regulation and are continuing to launch further improvements still. Analysts suggest that increased driver education and governmental regulations efforts will improve the safety of Chinese roads even more, forecasting that the numbers will be brought down to fewer than 200,000 casualties on an annual basis within the next three years.