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Drunken driving drops since law amended in 2011

By Zhang Yan and Cao Yin | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-03 07:09

The number of drunken driving cases has dropped dramatically in China since May 1, 2011, when an amended law that imposes harsher punishment on drunken drivers took effect, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Over the past two years, police have handled 871,000 cases of driving under the influence of alcohol, down 39.3 percent compared with the same period from 2009 to 2011, the traffic management bureau under the ministry said on Wednesday.

Of those, 122,000 were drunken driving cases, a drop of 42.7 percent from 2009 to 2011, according to the bureau.

Some 93,000 cases have been transferred to prosecuting authorities, and more than 70,000 cases have been judged by the courts, said the ministry.

In the past year, the number of traffic accidents caused by drunken driving has decreased by 35.2 percent.

The number of people killed or injured in drunken driving accidents also saw a year-on-year decline of 21.1 percent and 34.7 percent, the ministry said.

Although the crackdown has achieved significant results, officials said that drunken driving is hard to eradicate.

"Drunken driving happens repeatedly. Some people do not hesitate to break the law due to the deeply rooted Chinese drinking culture," said Wen Guohui, media officer from the ministry.

Some drunken drivers have even broken through checkpoints set up by police to avoid having their blood alcohol content tested.

Some have also fought with police to avoid legal punishment, he said.

Drivers who are found with 80 milligrams of alcohol or more per 100 milliliters of blood are considered drunk under Chinese Criminal Law.

"Drunken driving is the cause of most vicious car accidents," Wen said. "Police authorities will adopt a 'zero tolerance' toward drunken driving, and will improve the long-term mechanism to severely punish such behavior."

In October 2011, a man surnamed Zhang was driving on a road in Taizhou city, Zhejiang province, when his car collided with a large truck. Zhang, who was driving drunk, and six people in the truck were killed. One other person in the truck suffered severe injuries.

To crack down on drunken driving, national police departments are taking measures to investigate such cases.

Jiang Jing, media officer from Beijing Municipal Traffic Management Bureau, said Beijing has set up a task force to handle drunken driving cases, and will carry out checks at main roads and highways intersections.

Police departments have also reached consensus with prosecuting departments and courts on cases evidence, deadlines for handling them and sentencing standards, according to the ministry.

China amended the law to criminalize drunken driving in 2011. The amended law stipulates that all drunken driving constitutes a criminal offense, even if no road accidents or other serious consequences occur.

Since the law took effect, prosecutors in Shijingshan district of Beijing have handled 81 cases of suspected drunk driving, according to the prosecuting authority.

Among the prosecuted suspects, 79 were men, according to Shijingshan prosecuting department.

Prosecutor Yang Yali said most such cases occurred from 9 pm to 7 am, and many suspects said they had been drinking because they had attended a party.

She suggested establishing a compulsory system in which drivers who have been drinking must hire someone else to drive their car and building up a long-term crackdown mechanism among police.

In addition, the public should enhance their awareness of drunken driving.

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