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'Ghostdrivers' take edge off drunk driving
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-22 08:47

A relatively new profession, driving cars for drunk people, made its debut on Tuesday in Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan Province.

To avoid the risks of driving when under the influence of alcohol, people in the city can now hire drivers to take them and their cars home.

The charge for the service ranges between 30 yuan and 100 yuan (US$3.6-US$12) based on distance, said Zhang, the owner of the new company which offers the service.

He said the novel service aroused great attention from the public and several people called him with questions the day the business started.

However, car owners hold different attitudes towards the burgeoning profession.

People who hailed the service said it may reduce drunk driving which is one of the major causes for traffic accidents.

One man, surnamed Tang, said he, as a public relations manager, entertains a lot. In many occasions, he drinks liquor.

"It is a piece of good news that I can ask a special driver to drive my car and take me home. The price is acceptable compared with the harsh punishments on drunk driving," said Tang.

According to the Law on Road Traffic Safety that took effect on May 1, drunk drivers face fines of up to 2,000 yuan (US$240) as well as up to 15 days of detention.

For another man surnamed Liu, who said he cannot hold much liquor, the service was almost a troublemaker rather than a blessing.

"In the past, I could say no to alcohol with the excuse that I had to drive a car, but now, my friends will definitely not let me slip because they can hire a driver for me," said Liu.

In many places of the country, liquor plays an important role in promoting friendship at the dinner table. Few people can resist a few drinks when they want to make friendly contacts with others.

Although the driving service is regarded as a way to reduce drunk driving, some people worried about the safety of having a stranger drive a car when the owner is intoxicated.

Zheng said due to the novelty of the profession, a lot of work needs to be done such as strengthening management and supervision on his drivers.

"It takes time for consumers to build confidence," said Zheng.

The Beijing traffic management authorities said providing driving service for drunk people is probably an effective way to curb drunk driving.

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