More than 200,000 people are killed each year while driving on China’s notoriously life-threatening roads, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported yesterday. That figure is at least four times more than the Chinese government has estimated in recent years.
Writing in the China Daily, China’s WHO representative Bernhard Schwartlaender added that more than 10,000 children under 15 years of age die every year because of injuries sustained in an accident on the road. He said that the deaths were “entirely preventable,” but not nearly enough preventing was being done.
While 200,000 might seem grotesquely high (because it is), it is also important to remember that China has a whole lot of drivers. Many who don’t die. In fact, China’s estimated traffic-related death rate of 20.5 per 100,000 people is very close to the 20.1 average for middle-income countries, but it is still far higher than the 8.7 average in high-income nations.
Additionally, a mere 200,000 road deaths actually signifies that China’s roads are becoming safer to drive on, judging by the WHO’s 2013 global status report on road safety, in which fatalities on China’s roads from accidents were estimated to total 275,983 in 2010.
Government data for road deaths in China is notoriously hard to come by, but the International Business Times finds that these figures are much, much higher than the most recent government estimates would indicate. In 2012 the Chinese government said that the number was around 60,000. Based on the official rate of deaths per vehicle in 2014 and the official number of cars in China, news agencies also calculated that according to government statistics just 34,292 people died as a result of traffic accidents last year. This is less than an eighth of the WHO estimate.
These high numbers can hardly come as a surprise for anyone keeping up with Chinese news, where different kinds of accidents make the headlines everyday. From crushed passenger buses, to demolished $650,000 Lamborghinis, to police cars colliding with Bentleys, each crash is as unique as a snowflake.
In attempting to reverse this dangerous trend of dangerous driving, Schwartlaender diplomatically said that China is making “some progress” with road safety laws, but was quick to add: “It’s not enough to adopt laws. They must also be properly and rigorously enforced.”
We’ll see how that goes.
by Alex Linder