DRUNKEN-DRIVING CASES SPIKE IN CHINA

September 3, 2009

Mix a billion people with an age-old thirst for strong alcohol and a love for the automobile, and what do you get? A crackdown on drunken driving and a heated debate on whether offenders deserve the death penalty, at least in China, says USA Today.

Currently, Chinese law considers drunken driving a traffic violation, with a penalty of up to 15 days in detention.  If a death is involved, the top punishment is seven years.  However, some lawyers and families of victims argue that the laws are too lenient:

  • After the number of drunk-driving cases jumped nine percent in the first half of 2009 and 97 people were killed in Beijing alone in the month of July, some lawyers are advocating for the death penalty for the most serious offenses.
  • Others are targeting China's highly sociable and sometimes excessive drinking habits; the "bottoms up" drinking culture means persuading others to drink more, even if people know their friends may drive when drunk.
  • While tea may be China's national drink, a close contender is the fiery liquor called baijiu, or white spirit, that costs as little as $1 a bottle.
  • In recent months, local media have highlighted several fatal pedestrian accidents involving wealthy, young Chinese driving expensive sports cars.

In the month of August, 28,800 people were caught driving under the influence of alcohol. Police in several large cities are staking out hotels and restaurants, as well as manning roadblocks to catch offenders. Now, China's top court is considering whether to classify drunken driving as a separate crime, says USA Today.

However, legal experts advocate for the use of education to curb the problem, because China has 180 million people with drivers' licenses and only 300,000 policemen to tail them.  They say that prevention is the best measure, says USA Today.

Source: Calum MacLeod, "Drunken-driving cases spike in China," USA Today, September 2, 2009.

For text:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2009-09-01-china-drunken-drivers_N.htm

 

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