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Hearing held on disputed traffic regulation
By Zhu Yuzi (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-04 08:57

A public hearing over widely disputed local regulations for the implementation of the Road Traffic Safety Law was held by the Beijing Municipal People's Congress (BMPC) on Friday afternoon.

It is the first time Beijing has held such a public hearing on local legislation.

Of the 332 citizens who had registered to attend the hearing, 16 were selected as representatives to express their views.

The controversial second item of Article 69 of the regulation was brought to the fore.

The item reads that the motor vehicle driver always holds the responsibility for road accidents with pedestrians or non-motorized vehicle drivers as long as the accident is not reported to the police or the site of the incident is changed to make the collection of evidence impossible.

"This item follows in the step of the national law, the Road Traffic Safety Law, and it is feasible in practice," one of the representatives, Song Qingzhuang, a retiree of the navy, said at the hearing.

The law, in effect since May 1, says in Article 76 that where proof is available that it is the pedestrian or the non-motorized vehicle driver who violates the traffic rules and if the driver took necessary countermeasures, the extent of the liability can be reduced.

"If the motor vehicle driver did not report the accident or protect the accident site, how can the police find out the facts? And how could they reduce their liability?" Song questioned.

"Compared to the pedestrian, the driver is at less risk of injury, thus the driver is obligated to take on more responsibility," said representative Sui Wei, an editor.

However, contrary opinions were also raised during the hearing.

"It is not fair, you can not place all the blame on the driver," said representative Jiang Yuan, a civil servant, who himself is a driver.

"It is too simplified to consider the driver as more secure than the pedestrian. When a minor mistake is made by the pedestrian in breach of the traffic rules, major trouble could result for the driver," Jiang said.

"The driver is under great pressure when driving as some pedestrians often ignore the rules and laws and cross the express or the city highway where they are prohibited to enter. Therefore it is impossible to tell who is more at risk,"Jiang said.

But according to statistics from the Ministry of Public Security, nearly 255,000 traffic accidents happened in the first half of the year. More than 221,000, or 87 per cent, occurred due to faults of the driver like speeding, drunk driving, failing to keep a safe distance, etc., while just 6,700, or 2.6 per cent, were caused by pedestrians.

A Beijing assistant traffic controller, surnamed Huang, told China Daily at a busy crossroads at around 9:30 am yesterday, "As you see, most motor vehicles go down the road as they're supposed to, stopping at red lights and going at green. But many pedestrians do not follow the rules, they cross no matter what the colour."

"Of course there are always some cars who try ignoring the lights, but it is much easier for us to control them than careless pedestrians," Huang said.

Yu Linyun, a professor at the Chinese People's Public Security University, said, "For the most part it is the driver who is responsible for traffic accidents, so the underlying premise is right since it targets the main trouble maker."

"However, the question is how we can guarantee a fair result both for the driver and the pedestrian through a series of regulations," Yu noted.

Zhang Tiejun, one of the representatives, who is a traffic policeman working in Xuanwu District of Beijing, said at the hearing, "Generally speaking, accidents cause more loss to the pedestrian than the driver. But when the driver must pay compensation, it is not quite clear how much they should pay."

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