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Serious traffic accidents are common in China due to bad driving habits, overloaded vehicles and bad road conditions. Most years around 60,000 Chinese die in traffic accidents. Some bus accidents involve many deaths. According to authorities 58,000 people were killed in accidents across the country in 2015. Violations of traffic laws were blamed for nearly 90 percent of accidents that caused deaths or injuries that year, the Chinese government said. [Source: AFP, September 29, 2019]

Automobile accident deaths (per 100,000 people): 18.8 (compared to 75 in Zimbabwe and 2.49 in Sweden. Automobile accident deaths (per 100,000 vehicles): 104 (compared to 6,532 in Somalia and 3.7 in Switzerland. The World Health Organization has estimated that 261,000 people died on China’s roads in 2013. Chinese government data showed that in 2014, 1,895 people died in traffic accidents when crossing roads, and 4,180 people died between 2011 and 2014 on public buses that were speeding or overloaded. [Source: Rose Yu, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2015, World Health Organization]

Although China has only three percent of the world’s vehicles it accounts for 24 percent of the world’s traffic fatalities. The death rate from accidents is 5.5 times higher in China than in the United States. China has about 85 million passenger cars plying its roads, about 40 percent fewer than in the United States. Yet 67,759 people died in road accidents in China in 2009, according to official statistics — more than twice the number in the U.S. the same year.

It is estimated that 51 children under the age of 14 are killed everyday, or 18,500 a year, in automobile accidents in China, Accidents now exceed disease as the No. 1 killer of children in China. Child seats are commonly seen in Shanghai and Beijing but they are rarities in second and third tier cities where many parents still falsely believe that the safest place for a child is in the arms of an adult. It is estimated that only 1 on 100 small children ride in a baby seat, ironic when yo think that China is the world’s largest producer of baby seats. As of 2013, China had no baby seat laws. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times of London, December 2013]

Growth and Decline? of Traffic Accidents in China

China has topped the world’s list in traffic fatalities since the late 1980s, when it recorded 50,000 traffic deaths for the first time, and has been increasing steadily since then as the number of vehicles on the roads have soared. In a 1996 survey in traffic death rates, China ranked third behind South Africa and Slovenia. The number of fatal accidents per car in China is 55 times higher than Japan. In 1999, according to police reports, 83,529 people (279 a day) were killed on China's road, a seven percent increase from 1998. The number of accidents increased 19.3 percent from 1998 to 1999 to 412,860. The number injuries rose in the same period 28.4 percent to 286,000.

In 2003, 104,372 people were killed and 494,174 people were injured on China's roads. There was a decline in the number of fatalities by 13.7 percent and injures by 12.1 percent from 2002. The total number of recorded accidents was 667,507, 13.7 percent fewer than the year before. The decline was attributed to the SARS outbreak, which reduced the amount of traffic on the roads.

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According to People’s Daily Online, which cited Public Security Bureau data, there were 210,812 road accidents in China in 2011 involving injury or loss of life. There were at least 62,387 traffic fatalities the same year, with road accidents accounting for more than 80 percent of all accidental deaths in the country. In 2010, more than 65,200 people died in road accidents — around 178 fatalities a day — according to official statistics. Zhao Hang, the president of the China Automotive Technology and Research Center, told the New York Times traffic accidents are the single biggest reason people in the Beijing area go to physical rehabilitation centers.

Chinese drivers are getting better. Statistics for 2009 show that 67,759 people died on the road in China, a 7.8 percent decline over the previous year. In 2008, 73,484 people died in road accidents, 304,919 were injured in 265,204 road accidents. Compared to 2007, there 10 percent fewer deaths, 20 percent fewer injuries and 19 percent fewer accidents. Traffic accidents killed 107,000 people, nearly 300 a day, in 2004. A total of 89,455 people were killed in road accidents in 2006, about 245 every day, down 9.4 percent from 2005. Out of the total 76,000 were caused by speeding, drunk driving and other violations. By contrast 48,443 people were killed in traffic accidents in the United States in 2006.

Some people that more than 200,000 people die on Chinese roads every year not what government figures indicate. A study by the World Health Organization cast serious doubt on the official Chinese figures. Comparing policy data with hospital records, the study concluded that the real death rate from traffic accidents was roughly twice the official figure. Accident statistics in China are derived from police reports and not hospitals or medical clinics. The WHO has said that the figures are probably low and may be only about half the true figure. According to the World Health Organization, some estimates suggest that around 250,000 people die in road accidents every year, which would make it the leading cause of death for people aged 14 to 44. The WHO estimates that traffic accidents cost the Chinese economy $21 billion a year.

Dangerous Driving and Reasons for Traffic Accidents in China

China's roads are among the world's most dangerous, with traffic and safety laws widely flouted. Drivers looking to maximise profits often load their buses with too many passengers, sometimes triggering deadly incidents. The high numbers of traffic deaths are blamed on the large number of inexperienced drivers, treacherous road conditions, reckless driving, and poor quality of motor vehicles. Almost two thirds of the of traffic fatalities occur on rural roads. Most accidents involve some kind of driver negligence. Alcohol, tired drivers, overloading and speeding are often involved. Reports of trains colliding with cars, hit-and-run accidents and drunk driving are common.

Inexperienced drivers are known "benbenzu" (“the unlicenced generation”). Xinhua News Agency said a spokesman from the Ministry of Public Security said that drivers with less than one year of experience play a large role in traffic accidents. In Shanghai they are responsible for about a third of all traffic accidents and deaths. One celebrated case involved a wealthy businessman who had license but never drove because he had a chauffeur. One day he asked his chauffeur if he could drive and confused the brake and gas pedal and drove his Audi A6 into a river and drowned. Others are drivers who have just gotten their licenses. Anxious to hit the roads, they coax friends into lending them their car and then go out and crash it.

The reduction in fatalities and accidents has been attributed to safety campaigns and better management of commercial vehicles. Effort to reduce accidents include a number of scare tactics. Gory pictures are posted on bulletin boards. On the side of highways signs proclaim: “65 Crashes and 31 Fatalities” or “Due to Speeding 53 People Have Died on This Turn.”

"Rules, regulations and conditions vary wildly throughout China, but a general rule of thumb is that traffic safety is poor and driving in China can be dangerous," warns the U.S. State Department "Traffic is chaotic and poorly regulated, and right-of-way and other courtesies are usually ignored." China's safety regulations include requiring drivers and front-seat passengers to wear seatbelts, and a a prohibition of the use of mobile phones while driving. According to the Wall Street Journal" But these laws are often ignored in practice. Distracted driving – operating a vehicle while texting, talking on the phone, watching videos, eating or reading – contributed to more than a third of fatal traffic accidents in 2014, causing 21,570 deaths, the Ministry of Public Security said. [Source: Rose Yu, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2015]

A common bumper sticker in China is "Newbie on the road, please excuse me." Someone who drives recklessly is called a ma lu sha shou, meaning "road killer." "These are first-generation car buyers," said Whitney Foard Small, a spokeswoman for Ford Motor Co., which runs free programs in China teaching drivers such basics as when to use a turn signal, told the Los Angeles Times. "They don't come from a car culture. They don't have Mom and Dad teaching them how to drive courteously and how to be safe." Traffic police have been trying to fill that void. In 2011, Beijing announced a five-year plan to crack down on some of the most common bad driving habits, such as running red lights and failing to stop at zebra crossings. Also targeted: tossing garbage out of the window and needless honking. [Source: Los Angeles Times, April 20 2011]

Traffic Accident Customs and Description

20080313-15dal-2taxi crash enar Dalian Beifan.jpg Crowds often gather around accidents out of curiosity and to ensure justice is served. When a pedestrian is killed by a car the driver faces a maximum liability that varies from about $4,100 in rural Shaanxi to more than $37,000 in Shanghai. When a person is merely injured there is no such cap. These liability rules have created some twisted incentives such as drivers hitting pedestrians and then running over them in an effort to kill them so they can get out of paying hospital and compensation costs.

When a large accident occur drivers tend to stay where they are in the middle of the road as they wait for police to sort out blame rather than pulling over to the side of the road. Wrecked cars are sometimes placed on the top of polls with slogans warning drivers to drive carefully. In Tibet one has the words “Four People Died” painted acroess the back. There are also billboards that keep tally of the number of accidents and fatalities for a particular stretch of road with changeable numbers and features driving proverbs like: “40 kph Is the safest/ 80 kph is Dangerous. 100 kph Is Bound for the Hospital.” [Source: Peter Hessler, The New Yorker]

In 2006, a PBS reporter reported: “Driving back from the Burmese border to Shangri-La, we came upon what at first appeared to be a traffic jam in a poor farming town. We got out of our Land Rover to investigate and discovered a grisly traffic accident. A small van in the left lane had collided with a massive dump truck. The people in the dump truck were fine. “Those in the small van, a cheaply made Chinese model, were not so lucky. The driver was a horror. It looked as if someone had peeled back the older man’s face to reveal the muscle and gore underneath. His left eye was obliterated, and his lower torso was smashed into the thickness of a sheet of paper. At first he seemed to be alive, but on closer examination, it was apparent that the twitching was merely severed nerves acting out. Next to him was a young woman who was, perhaps, unlucky to be alive. Her legs were also crushed, and her face had large open cuts from hitting the windshield. She was obviously on her way to bleeding to death. She seemed to drift in and out of consciousness and would yell out, “Hurry, get me out. Please help me.” She didn’t seem to be affected by the sight of her dead companion [Source: Frontline,, February 10, 2006]

“A crowd had gathered around the smashed van. Most Chinese men were carelessly smoking cigarettes around the wreckage. We saw puddles of leaked gasoline on the ground and quickly backed up our vehicle. Police arrived, but they had no equipment to cope with the wreckage. The crowd managed to pull the broken bodies into the street, using crowbars and their bare hands. It was about 45 minutes before the ambulance got there. The driver of the van had a half-empty bottle of Chinese rice alcohol in his pocket. Locals recognized him as a drunk. So it seems perhaps his fate was destined.

Why Chinese Drivers Intentionally Kill the Pedestrians They Hit.

Geoffrey Sant wrote in Slate: In April 2015, “a BMW racing through a fruit market in Foshan in China’s Guangdong province knocked down a 2-year-old girl and rolled over her head. As the girl’s grandmother shouted, “Stop! You’ve hit a child!” the BMW’s driver paused, then switched into reverse and backed up over the girl. The woman at the wheel drove forward once more, crushing the girl for a third time. When she finally got out from the BMW, the unlicensed driver immediately offered the horrified family a deal: “Don’t say that I was driving the car,” she said. “Say it was my husband. We can give you money.” [Source: Geoffrey Sant, Slate, September 4, 2015]

“It seems like a crazy urban legend: In China, drivers who have injured pedestrians will sometimes then try to kill them. And yet not only is it true, it’s fairly common; security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forth on top of victims to make sure that they are dead. The Chinese language even has an adage for the phenomenon: “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.”

“This 2008 television report features security camera footage of a dusty white Passat reversing at high speed and smashing into a 64-year-old grandmother. The Passat’s back wheels bounce up over her head and body. The driver, Zhao Xiao Cheng, stops the car for a moment then hits the gas, causing his front wheels to roll over the woman. Then Zhao shifts into drive, wheels grinding the woman into the pavement. Zhao is not done. Twice more he shifts back and forth between drive and reverse, each time thudding over the grandmother’s body. He then speeds away from her corpse.

“Incredibly, Zhao was found not guilty of intentional homicide. Accepting Zhao’s claim that he thought he was driving over a trash bag, the court of Taizhou in Zhejiang province sentenced him to just three years in prison for “negligence.” Zhao’s case was unusual only in that it was caught on video. As the television anchor noted, “You can see online an endless stream of stories talking about cases similar to this one.”

““Double-hit cases” have been around for decades. I first heard of the “hit-to-kill” phenomenon in Taiwan in the mid-1990s when I was working there as an English teacher. A fellow teacher would drive us to classes. After one near-miss of a motorcyclist, he said, “If I hit someone, I’ll hit him again and make sure he’s dead.” Enjoying my shock, he explained that in Taiwan, if you cripple a man, you pay for the injured person’s care for a lifetime. But if you kill the person, you “only have to pay once, like a burial fee.” He insisted he was serious—and that this was common.

Over 17 Million Cases of Road Rage in China in 2015

Between January 2015 and November 2015, Chinese traffic police handled more than 17 million cases of road rage, a 2.8 percent increase from 2014, the Ministry of Public Security said. According to the Wall Street Journal: They include behavior such as cutting off other drivers, close tailgating and sudden accelerating and braking, said the announcement, which comes on China’s National Traffic Safety Day. [Source: Rose Yu, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2015]

“Some of the examples involved serious violence. In one case that took place in May, a male driver in the southwestern city of Chengdu was captured on camera savagely beating a female driver after she made a series of sudden lane changes. In November a driver in China’s northeast Heilongjiang province intentionally forced an ambulance to pull over several times after he had spat with another private car driver.

“Chinese police attributed 80,200 traffic accidents in 2013 to road rage, and the number rose by 2.4 percent in 2014. Men account for 97 percent of road rage incidents, official data show. When it comes to the surge in road rage, experts point to a range of possible explanations. One is that the rapid development of China’s car market has led the country’s roads to become increasingly crowded, creating frustration and anger on the streets. Sociologists also link road rage to general anxiety and fickleness, one of the side products of China’s rapid economic growth — and its accompanying social pressure — over the past three decades.

“Chinese authorities are working to counter the trend. In November 2015, the Ministry of Public Security launched a public education campaign on road etiquette after several high-profile cases of road rage violence this year. It advocated against dangerous driving behaviors including street racing, drunk driving, aggressive driving and blocking emergency lanes.

Drunk Driving in China

William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “After three decades of uninhibited economic growth, one vexing crisis China faces is this: more money, more cars, more drinking, more problems. On some nights, driving along Beijing’s bar districts feels roughly on a par with sharing the road with an entire nation of newly licensed teens all weaving their way home from a pledge party. [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, June 5, 2011]

“Many people just think they drink when they need to drink and they drive when they need to drive. They don’t yet realize those two are in conflict,” said Xia Xueluan, a sociologist at Peking University. “The change in culture in China hasn’t caught up with the growth in cars.” He and other experts say drunken driving is the result of the new China colliding with the old. In just two decades, China has transformed from a land of bicycles to a country where cars are the preeminent symbol of status.

China’s healthy love for liquor has been celebrated for centuries. Its history and literature are practically soaked in it — especially the traditional Chinese grain alcohol baijiu. Baijiu remains ubiquitous in restaurants. Business dinners inevitably feature the fiery, sorghum-based liquor, with each side making toasts and forcing the other to drink under threat of losing face.

The Chinese appetite for alcohol has only increased in recent decades, according to studies. Baijiu production has shot up by more than 50 percent in the past three years. The marketing firm Datamonitor predicts that Chinese alcohol consumption will rise from 47 billion liters in 2009 to 61 billion liters in 2014.

High-Profile Drunk Driving in China

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William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “Because new car owners tend to be upper-class elites, lethal cases of drunken driving have become a symbol of sorts of the widening disparity between China’s rich and poor. In the past two years especially, whole swaths of online forums have been devoted to chronicling spectacularly scandalous cases of drunken driving. In one incident in December, a local official in Henan province killed five teenagers walking on the side of the road. The official still hasn’t been tried, and his superiors have instead tried to give the grieving family members money. In another particularly gruesome case from Nanjing, a driver with a blood alcohol level five times the limit killed five people, including a pregnant woman.” [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, June 5, 2011]

The most famous case occurred in October in Hebei province when the son of a deputy police chief named Li Gang hit two female students at Hebei University, killing one. After the accident, the intoxicated driver went on to drop his girlfriend off at her dorm, stopping only when forced to by security guards. When they tried to arrest him, he allegedly shouted out: “Go ahead, sue me if you dare! My father is Li Gang!” Government censors quickly tried to quash news of the incident, seeing all the ingredients for public backlash. But the case went viral online, and “My father is Li Gang” has become a catchphrase — shorthand for avoiding one’s responsibilities — and the subject of songs, online parodies and even an art installation. When Li’s son was convicted a few months ago for a lesser charge of causing a traffic accident, the blogosphere boiled over with fury.

Amid the recent crackdown, those without political connections have fared considerably worse. At least one intoxicated driver has received a death sentence in the past two years (though it was later reduced to life in prison).The arbitrary harshness of a few sentences has some judges and legal experts beginning to question the government’s new approach.

Cracking Down on Drunk Driving in China

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“For years, the problem of drunken driving was largely ignored by the government, treated with spotty enforcement and fines,” William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “But a string of fatal crashes during the past two years, often involving officials or rich elites, has led to public outcry — the one thing the government fears most. As a result, Chinese officials have begun responding to drunken driving the way they would to any threat to social stability — with overwhelming force. [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, June 5, 2011]

In May 2011 “China instituted its first law making drunken driving a criminal act. Soon after, officials declared a full-on war in China’s streets. In Beijing alone, 7,000 police officers were deployed to set up checkpoints, armed with tear gas and 10-meter, tire-puncturing nail strips. And for several weeks, state-owned media plastered stories of such arrests on their front pages.

Unused to the idea of moderation, confused drivers in China have responded to the recent crackdown on drunken driving with their own shows of force. One man in the northern province of Shanxi bit the hand of a policeman in an attempt to avoid an alcohol test. An officer in Beijing remains in a coma after being run over last year by a driver he was trying to stop for an alcohol test.

But while awareness of the government’s crackdown is spreading, its long-term impact remains ambiguous. On a recent night, Sun Pengbin, 30 — an appliance salesman, a frequent drinker and a newly licensed driver — explained his philosophy this way: “Sure, I’ve driven after drinking before. I do it maybe eight or 10 times a year. It’s perfectly fine as long as the streets aren’t too crowded. You just drive slowly.”

70 kph refers to a hit and run case that preceded the famous my Dad is Li Gang case, in which police in Hangzhou appear to have colluded with a driver’s version of events after a hit-and-run accident.

China Tries to Scare Motorists into Safer Driving

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David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “On the first day of instruction to get his driver's license, Zheng Hao and his classmates sat down in a dimmed room and watched a video produced by traffic police with the innocuous title "Care about life: Follow the traffic rules." They were assaulted by 30 minutes of gruesome footage showing crushed cyclists, pedestrians flung into the air like rag dolls, charred human remains and victims' families grieving hysterically. "The women in the class were sobbing afterward," said Zheng, 21. "Even the guys were disturbed."[Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2011]

“To scare sense into millions of new drivers in a country with some of the deadliest roads in the world, Chinese authorities are releasing video of road accidents so grisly that it makes the crash reenactments shown in U.S. high schools feel G-rated.” "Police are trying to send a message that 'If you don't drive safely, this is what will happen to you,'" Fan Li, an expert on driving behavior and editor of motorist manuals, told the Los Angeles Times. "In China, people just aren't as aware of road safety as people overseas who are educated about it at a young age."

“Beijing television broadcasts a daily show called "Traffic Light" that mixes safety tips with footage of horrifying accidents. In an episode this year, a two-door compact ran a red light, collided with two cyclists and threw a pedestrian several feet into a sign post.” "It definitely makes me want to drive more carefully when I see those videos," said Ma Quansheng, 28, standing inside a driving school on the outskirts of Beijing. "Not to bad-mouth China, but many people don't drive in a civilized way." Though the footage could scare some drivers into being more careful, the massive response to a recent video suggests the recordings are becoming macabre entertainment. The clip was produced by police in the industrial city of Heze in eastern Shandong province.

The 12-minute compilation starts with booming drums, then cycles quickly through a series of hair-raising accidents captured by 108 city cameras. There's the motorcyclist who speeds directly into the path of a city bus, a cyclist slammed by a sedan, and a truck that clips a car and slides on its side through a busy intersection. By the time the death metal music starts up, dozens appear to have either died or suffered critical injuries. At least one of the earliest uploaded versions of the video on Youku, a popular streaming video site much like YouTube, received 5.9 million views. The clip got 47,000 "thumbs up," the equivalent of clicking "Like" on Facebook.:

"Accident videos are almost guaranteed to get millions of views," said Jean Shao, a Youku spokeswoman. "I don't know why. People just love them." More than 13,000 comments were left for the video, most expressing outrage over the reckless behavior. "Too many people don't follow the traffic rules in China," wrote someone using the online handle Tai Fu Le. "But there are too many new drivers as well. They become 'road killers.'"

Traffic Accidents in China That Left Dozens Dead

In October 2011, Reuters reported: At least 35 people, most of them students, were killed when a car collided with a coach on a highway in northern China, state media reported. The car, from the central province of Shandong, hit the coach in Tianjin city, near Beijing, Xinhua said. Another 19 were injured, it added. The coach, which overturned on impact, was carrying 55 passengers, most of them college students on their way back to school after a seven-day national holiday. At least 56 people were killed in three major road accidents, including the Tianjin smash, during the one-week holiday break, according to media reports. [Source: Reuters, October 8, 2011]

In September 2019, at least 36 people were killed and 36 were hurt in a road crash in in eastern Jiangsu province when a packed bus with a flat tire collided with a truck. AFP reported: The bus was carrying 69 people -- its maximum capacity -- when it crossed into oncoming traffic and hit the freight truck on an expressway, the Yixing public security bureau said. A preliminary investigation determined that the accident was caused by a flat tyre on the left front wheel of the bus, the bureau said in a statement. Nine people were seriously injured, 26 were slightly hurt and one was discharged from hospital. The Changchun-Shenzhen expressway reopened after eight hours of rescue work.

In 2014, 43 were killed when van carrying flammable liquid hit a double-decker bus, sparking a huge explosion, in Hunan Province. CNN reported: Both drivers were among the fatalities in the accident in Hunan Province, according to Xinhua news agency. Another person in the van was also killed. Six people were injured, four seriously, according to state-run CCTV. The fate of the other passengers is unclear. The bus had a capacity of 53 people, Xinhua said. The accident destroyed five cars. Authorities extinguished the fire, but a rescue effort was still under way several after the accident. CCTV also reported that the bus operator was blacklisted by local authorities for violating safety rules. The nest day Chinese authorities detained 10 people in connection with accident. “Police detained the group as part of an investigation into the "illegal transportation of hazardous chemicals", a report by official news agency Xinhua said. “The transportation of dangerous chemicals is also a major issue in China, with poor rural workers commonly flouting laws. [Source: Steven Jiang, CNN, July 20, 2014]

In December 2010, 21 people died — including 14 schoolchildren — and 25 more were injured in three horrific car accidents, one of which involved more than 100 vehicles. On a foggy stretch of highway in Sichuan province 134 cars were involved in a 4-mile pileup. Weeks later, on the same day, 14 schoolchildren in central Hunan province died when their three-wheel vehicle swerved off a road, while seven people died in a 100-car pile-up in southwest Guizhou province.

Bus Accidents in China

Fatal road accidents that kill large numbers of people in China often involve over-crowded long-distance buses. In August 2012, at least 36 people died when a double-decker sleeper bus slammed into the rear of a methanol tanker and burst into flames in northern China.

In February 2011, 12 people were killed when a minibus toppled into a reservoir in the southeastern province of Fujian, after the driver apparently swerved to avoid a motorbike. In March 2011, at least three people died and up to 80 were injured when a bus driver in the northwestern region of Xinjiang lost control of the vehicle and collided with a passing passenger train. The bus, which was carrying mostly students on their way to school, broke through a protective fence next to railway tracks in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi and hit the train. In August 2011, Xinhua reported a collision between a bus loaded with migrant workers and a truck has killed 17 people and injured 17 other people near Zhangjiakou, a city northwest of Beijing. Xinhua says the bus carrying 34 migrant workers rear-ended a semi-trailer that was parked at the roadside. [Source: AP, August 28, 2011]

In July 2011, AFP reported: “A fire on an overcrowded bus carrying flammable materials killed 41 passengers in central China in one of the country's worst road accidents ever. The double-decker bus was taking people to southern Hunan province when it caught fire early yesterday morning on a highway, China Central Television (CCTV) said, adding the cause of the disaster is still being investigated. [ Photos of the tragedy showed the bus had been completely destroyed by the blaze, leaving only a burnt-out shell. Five passengers and the driver were pulled alive from the overnight bus, which was reportedly only designed to carry 35 passengers but had 47 people on board. CCTV said there were "flammable materials" on board, but did not provide further details. A police officer told Xinhua the fire raged for two hours and completely destroyed the bodies of the victims, who would only be identified after authorities carried out DNA tests on the charred corpses. Source: AFP, July 23, 2011]

23 Children Killed in Horrific School Bus Crash in China

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bus accident in Hong Kong
In November 2011, a nine-seat van badly overloaded with 62 kindergartners, along with a teacher and the driver, careened down a foggy street and crashed head-on with a coal truck in Gansu Province in northwest China . The van was demolished, killing 23 passengers (21 children and two adults), and injuring everyone else on board. The China Daily reported: “The bus, with just nine seats, was crammed with 64 people, which obviously contributed to the number of fatalities and the seriousness of the injuries suffered by some of the children. Forty-four of those on board, mostly children, were hospitalized and 10 of them are seriously injured.

According to Xinhua the accident occurred in Yulinzi township of Zhengning County. Parents of students at the kindergarten said school bus overloading has been a problem for years, despite repeated complaints. An initial investigation showed that the school bus had its seats removed to make room for more passengers and was speeding in adverse weather conditions. The government took swift action, the New York Times reported, as it often does in cases of public embarrassment. The Education Ministry ordered a national inspection of school buses, and four local officials were suspended pending an inquiry. [Source: Michael Wines and Ian Johnson, New York Times, November 18, 2011]

The Internet and Weibo response to the bus crash was swift and harsh. Michael Wines and Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times: The news ignited indignant postings on China’s major social media platform, Sina Weibo. One of the country’s most influential bloggers, the social scientist Yu Jianrong, wrote that school buses were notoriously overcrowded, while government officials built themselves palatial offices and bought luxury cars. Microbloggers posted photographs of an elaborate new government office building in Qingyang, the poor town where the accident occurred. A post on the blog of Caixin, a business magazine known for its rule-bending investigations, reported that the building’s garage and ventilation systems alone cost more than $2.2 million. [Source: Michael Wines and Ian Johnson, New York Times, November 18, 2011]

Crashes Involving School Children in China

About three weeks after the Gansu crash, Reuters reported, “Fifteen children were killed when a school bus crashed in China's eastern province of Jiangsu, the latest in a string of accidents fanning public fury across the country. The bus rolled into a ditch as it veered off the road to avoid a pedicab, the Xinhua news agency said. At least eight children were injured in the accident, state media said. "Students became trapped at the bottom of the overturned bus and drowned as water gushed into the wreck," Xinhua reported, citing Zhang Bin, a deputy head of the Fengxian county, where the accident happened. The driver, he said, had been detained. Xinhua gave conflicting accounts on the number of children on board the bus, but all the reports suggested it was not overloaded. Xinhua last reported that 29 were on board. [Source: Reuters, December 13, 2011]

In December 2012, eleven young children died when the overloaded van they were travelling in plunged into a pond in east China's Jiangxi province. AFP reported: The accident happened as the van was taking the children to school and all of the 11 victims were between four and six years old, the Henan Business Daily reported. It said that four other children, a teacher and the driver survived the crash, which happened in the morning near the city of Guixi. According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, emergency response teams took 70 minutes to arrive at the scene after locals informed authorities of the accident. The rights group said that the mini-van was overloaded and that its maximum capacity was just seven people. [Source: AFP, December 25, 2012]

In May 2017, twelve people, including 10 South Korean school children, were killed when their bus was involved in an accident and caught fire inside a tunnel in eastern China. Associated Press reported: The Weihai city government said on its microblog that the vehicle caught fire inside a highway tunnel in the city but gave no other details. It said the accident’s cause was under investigation. [Source: Associated Press May 10, 2017]

Truck Accidents in China

In June 2004, a farm trucked packed with migrants workers crashed into guardrail near the city of Jiangjin in the Chongqing region, killing 16 people.

In May 2007, 20 women were killed when a three-wheeled tractor overturned on a mountain road in northern Liaoning Province. The women were being transported in a cart attached to the tractor after a day of picking herbs.

In March 2014, 31 people died after two trucks collided, causing an explosion in a tunnel in China's Shanxi province. AFP reported: A methanol leak from the front vehicle started a fire, which caused the blast and ignited other trucks and their loads in the tunnel in Jincheng, in the northern province of Shanxi province, the city government's news office said in a statement. [Source: Agence France-Presse, March 13, 2014]

Bus, Van and Truck Accidents in China

In September 2003, a bus swerving to avoid an oil truck near Ya’an in the northern province of Shaanxi went off the road and plunged into a ravine, killing 27 people. In June 2008, 22 people died in a collision between a bus and a truck in Shanxi Province in northern China. In December 2008, 20 people were killed and 12 were injured when a coal truck collided with a bus in Kuqa in Xinjiang in far western China. The bus was carrying 29 people when the accident occurred. In April 2009, a tourist bus collided with a truck in Yunnan Province, killing 20 people. The accidents in the early morning when the truck smashed into the bus so hard the bus flipped over.

In August 2012, a double-decker sleeper bus rammed into a tanker loaded with highly-flammable methanol on a northern Chinese highway, causing both vehicles to burst into flames and killing 36 people. Associated Press reported: The official Xinhua News Agency said 39 people were on the long distance sleeper bus when it crashed and only three survived. The tanker had just returned to the highway after an early morning rest stop when it was apparently rear-ended by the bus at around 2:40 a.m. close to the city of Yan'an in Shaanxi province, the official China News website said. The bus had left Hohhot in Inner Mongolia at 5 p.m. Saturday and was headed south to Xi'an city, it said. Xinhua news photos showed the charred metal skeleton of the bus rammed up against the back of the tanker. [Source: Associated Press, August 26, 2012]

In September 2013, a passenger bus collided with a truck and plunged into a riverbed in southwest China, killing 16 people, including 11 students. Associated Press reported: “The accident happened on Sunday afternoon in a village in Dazhou city in Sichuan province. The truck overturned and the sand and cobblestones it was carrying buried the bus with 25 people on board, including the driver, according to a statement posted on the website of the Dazhou News. An official at the local propaganda department said that she understood the students were aged about 12 to 16. [Source: AP, September 16, 2013]

In July 2014, at least 43 people were killed when a van carrying flammable liquid rammed into the back of a coach and exploded on a busy expressway in Hunan province. The South China Morning Post reported: The accident happened at about 3am on a major expressway near Shaoyang . The van rammed the double-decker coach carrying 53 passengers and two drivers, setting off explosions and a fire that destroyed three other vehicles. The blaze took five hours to extinguish. The coach was travelling to Guizhou along the Hukun Expressway that connects Shanghai with Kunming. About half the passengers boarded the bus in Xiamen , Fujian . The van's driver and a passenger died at the scene, Xinhua said. Shi Shiping, a villager living near the accident scene, told Xinhua that he "heard a big bang" at the time of the accident. A worker at a local hospital said that all the clothes of the injured were severely burned, Beijing News reported. [Source: Teddy Ng, South China Morning Post, July 19, 2014]

Bus Accidents in China

In July 1997, two overloaded tour buses on their way to Emei Mountain plunged off a mountain road into the Yangtze River, killing 43 people. Around the same time 14 people died when an overloaded bus, with people sleeping in the floor, went off the road and plunged into a river in southern China. In January 2002, 17 people were killed when a mini bus packed with schoolchildren plunged 70 meters off a mountain road into a river in Yunnan province. The same year, 34 people died when a long distance bus traveling from Urumqi to Kashgar. plunged off a bridge in Xinjiang.

In May 2004, 22 people were killed when a bus plunged over cliff near Wanyuan, a city in Sichuan Province. In September 30 passengers were missing after a bus was swept off a bridge by a swollen river on the outskirts of Chongqing. In November 2004, 23 people were killed and another 46 were injured after a bus plunged into a river in northwest Shaanxi Province. The bus, carrying 72 people, overturned before going into the river on a highway between Xian and Zhouzhi country. In August 2005, a bus veered onto a sidewalk in Shenzhen and killed 19 people. The bus had veered to avoid hitting a bicycle. The sidewalk was crowded with people heading home from work.

In November 2005, a bus plunged off a snow-covered mountain road in southwestern China, killing 24 people and injuring 13. More than 200 rescue workers and residents took part in the rescue operation. In December, a bus ran off the road in northern China into a freezing section the Yellow River, leaving 28 people missing and presumed dead, The accident occurred when an icy section of road near the river collapsed, causing the bus to fall into the river. In December 2006, a bus plunged off a cliff in southwestern China, killing 17 people.

In February 2007, a tour bus with 41 people traveling in the wrong lane on a highway in the city of Hecho in Guangxi Province in southern China collided with an oncoming bus, with 48 people, killing 13 passengers and injuring 75. In March 2007, a bus carrying 33 passengers plunged into a reservoir in Shanxi Province, killing 22 people. In April, a bus plunged 20 meters off an overpass in Chongqing, killing 24 people. Rainy conditions and a slick road were blamed.

In July 2007, a bus plunged into a river while trying to drive on to ferry, killing nine people, in southeastern China. Many of those on the bus were schoolchildren on their way to camp. In August 2007, three Chinese were killed and 13 Japanese tourists were hurt when a tour bus with 21 Japanese tourists collided head-on with a car in Xian., The dead included two people in the car and a tour guide on the bus. The bus was on its way from the airport to the city center. The collision took place after the car crossed over the center-line into the opposite lane.

In January 2008, a bus veered off a highway in Sichuan Province and plunged into a ravine, killing 14 people. In March 2008, a long-distance bus bound for Chongqing from Shenzhen fell into a river after colliding with a van in central China, killing 13 of 33 people on the bus, The accident occurred while the bus was overtaking the van and was “due to its owner misoperation,”, according to Chinese news courses, In May 2008, three people were killed and 12 were hurt when a bus exploded in Shanghai. About 50 people were on the bus. Terrorism was ruled out. The deaths occurred because one of the doors jammed and the windows were locked shut because the bus was air conditioned. The fires after the explosion burned so hot they melted the steel plates at the top and bottom of the bus.

In May 2008, nine people were killed and 20 others, including three Japanese tourists, were injured when a bus plunged into a nine-meter deep ravine in Huangshan City in Anhui Province. In August 2008, 24 people were killed and 20 others were injured when a bus overturned in Xinjiang in northwest China. The accident occurred on a remote mountain road to the city of Artux, most of the victims were Han Chinese high school students and members of the Kyrgyz minority.

In September 2008, 51 people were killed when a bus plunged into a 100-meter valley in Sichuan Province. In November 2008, 18 people were killed and 29 injured when a passenger bus flipped over on a mountainous road in Tibet, The bus was carrying 47 people when the accident occurred in sparsely populated Su County.

In June 2009, a bus caught on fire in Chengdu in Sichuan Province, killing 27 and injuring 70, some quite seriously. . The fire was blamed on a gasoline cab that was brought on the bus and was ignited accidentally. An investigation determined that the gasoline was deliberately et by a many committing suicide, Investigators came to this conclusion by the way his body was position, indicating he had no intention of escaping, and interviews with his daughter wh0 said he was suicidal. In October 2009, an overloaded bus overturned in Hunan Province, killing 17 and injuring 54. The bus was designed to carry 31 people but was carrying 71 at the time if the accident. The extra weight and brake failure caused the bus to overturn going down a hill. In October 2009, 13 people were killed and 40 were injured when a bus plunged into a valley off a mountainous road in Shanxi Province.

In March 2013, 13 domestic tourists were killed and 15 others injured when a bus ran off a road and plunged into a ravine in the southwestern province of Yunnan during a rainstorm. In March 2014, Ten people were killed and another 17 injured in a bus fire on Wednesday morning in Jilin City in northeast China's Jilin Province, local authorities said. The local fire department was alerted at 7:05 am that a shuttle bus of Fukang wood company was on fire while traveling along a street. Forty-three people were on board when the fire broke out. [Sources: Associated Press, March 18, 2013; Xinhua, March 5, 2014]

Image Sources: Wikicommons and Julie Chao YouTube

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2022

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