China / Society

Seeing red over yellow light rule

By Luo Wangshu (China Daily) Updated: 2013-01-03 02:04

A revised traffic regulation that took effect on New Year's Day and is being called much too harsh by some drivers.

A key complaint is that the revised rule raises the stakes for drivers who run yellow lights. Under the revision, running a yellow light would be treated the same as a running a red light and cost drivers a deduction of six points - half the 12-point limit - from their driver's licenses. Formerly, only three points were deducted.

Drivers also complained that the extra care it forces them to take to avoid running yellow lights can easily cause rear-end collisions.

Li Qin, an official with the Ministry of Public Security, which produced and released the new regulation, told China Central Television on Wednesday that if drivers focused on the road, maintained a safe distance from vehicles in front of them and slowed down when approaching traffic lights, they could avoid rear-end collisions and running yellow lights.

He said that if a car had already passed the stop line when a yellow traffic light switched on, it would not be count as breaking the regulation.

Yu Ran, a manager of an environmental protection company in Beijing, said she has driven at a snail's pace since New Year's Day to avoid incurring the new penalty.

"I don't want to get caught and have to attend traffic school. The new rule is very strict, but somehow, it is good to create a more courteous environment on the road," she said.

Sun Yixuan, the art director of the magazine publishing department of Trends Media Group in Beijing, posted on his web blog that he caused a rear-end collision because of the rule against running yellow lights.

"The car in front of me suddenly stopped when the yellow light went on, and my car bumped into its rear bumper," he wrote on Tuesday afternoon, warning other drivers "to slow down a mile before you get to traffic lights".

His blog post had received 5,737 comments and been reposted 23,400 times as of Wednesday afternoon.

Netizens argue that yellow lights lose their meaning of warning drivers if running a yellow light is punished the same as running a red light. Some suggested installing a countdown signal light to remind drivers, and to prepare them for the yellow lights.

The Shenzhen police said on their blog on Tuesday evening that they will not punish drivers who run yellow traffic lights.

The police explained in a later post that the camera system does not photograph drivers running yellow lights. In addition, there is no standard length of time a yellow light lasts.

Li, from the Ministry of Public Security, told CCTV that fewer traffic rule violations had been seen in the past two days, and he attributed that to the new regulation.

Beijing Evening News reported on Wednesday that traffic violations in Tianjin decreased by nearly 30 percent since the new regulation was implemented.

Along with the controversial rule on yellow traffic lights, the revised regulation also strictly punishes speeding, covering license plates, making phone calls while driving and drunken driving.

Luo Ren, an experienced driver from Chongqing, said the new regulation is a relief to him.

"I have less concern on the road. There is no such thing as being too cautious while driving. People are forced to be more careful when they face severe penalties, which is good. I feel safer, for myself, and my daughter, who is a green hand as a driver," he said.

Under the new regulation, drivers who intentionally cover their license plate can lose 12 points, enough for their licenses to be suspended.

In Zhejiang, most penalties on Tuesday were for drivers who covered their license plates. In Weifang, Shandong province, nearly 50 drivers were fined for making phone calls while driving on Tuesday, according to Beijing Evening Post.

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