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Traffic deaths, injuries down by 13% in 2003
( 2004-01-18 23:37) (China Daily)

Despite all its negative influences, the outbreak of SARS last year might have helped reverse the number of road accidents injuries and deaths throughout China.

In 2003, the traffic administration departments at all levels dealt with 667,507 road accidents, which killed 104,372 people and injured 494,174 others.

A traffic police holds up an overloaded truck at the Zhangshanying checkpoint, in Beijing's Yanqing County, December 1, 2003. Authorities in Beijing joined with neighbouring Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to ban overloaded automobiles, reduce traffic accidents and make highways free from damage. [newsphoto.com.cn/file]

That meant a drop of 13.7 per cent in the number of accidents, 4.6 per cent in fatalities, and 12.1 per cent in the number of people injured, said Wang Jinbiao, deputy director of the Administration of Communications at the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). Wang spoke at a news conference over the weekend.

Wang attributed the decreases to a strengthened traffic administration, and overhauls on accident prone places as well as co-operation with relevant departments on improved safety.

Meanwhile, he said from March to May of last year, the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) prevalent in China led to a decline in the number of traffic accidents.

Fewer than 31,800 accidents occurred as compared to the same period to the previous year -- down 2,701 deaths and 22,941 accidents, according to MPS statistics.

Traffic experts say China has topped the world in road accidents since late-1980s when the yearly death toll surpassed 50,000 for the first time.

Analyzing the causes behind the occurrence of numerous road accidents, the MPS official said traffic violations by motor vehicle drivers remain the major reason.

The number of road accidents caused by mechanical failures and poor maintenance of the vehicles increased last year, Wang said.

"More road accidents took place on highways than on urban streets," Wang said.

Large numbers of the casualties are rural residents, migrant workers and self-employed labourers, he said.

"With the rapid process of urbanization, more rural residents enter cities and they are prone to suffer from road accidents due to limited education and lack of traffic safety knowledge."? Yang Jun, MPS communications director, told reporters the traffic police, ministries of communications and railway and other relevant departments have adopted a series of safety measures to guarantee safety for Spring Festival travel.

Moreover, China's ?first law on traffic safety has been approved by the National People's?Congress on October 28, 2003 and would take effect on May 1, this year, Yang said.

"This law will play a key role in improving China's road situation as well traffic administration after coming into practice."

It seems an almost overwhelming task to make fundamental improvements of traffic facilities in China's cities in a short period, said Yang.

What's more, the number of vehicles and drivers keep increasing, producing great challenges for traffic officials.

"The spread of traffic know-how among the common people and improvement of traffic administration are needed for the betterment of China's road situation," he said.

By the end of 2003, more than 96 million motor vehicles travel the roads of China, including 24 million autos, as well as more than 100 million vehicle drivers. Among them are more than 54 million are auto drivers, MPS statistics indicate.

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