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Beijing Police Get Green Light on Traffic Traps

Beijing traffic authorities recently announced that they will not prohibit officers from hiding themselves from drivers' view in order to nab violators, local newspapers report.


The announcement was made in response to the recent ban on such actions in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.


A number of drivers have lauded the Urumqi decision, saying it is "more civilized" not to have police spying on them.


However, Jiang Ming'an, a law professor at Peking University, said he supports the decision of the Beijing traffic authority.


"When there are not enough police officers available on the streets, watching for violators from a hidden location is a more efficient way to curb traffic violations," Jiang said.


One Beijing car owner testified to the effectiveness of the ploy.


"A traffic officer came out from behind a billboard when I was driving my car in the bus lane during the morning rush hour. He fined me. Now I never drive in the bus lanes because I'm always afraid there are traffic police standing somewhere behind the billboards."


Some drivers complain that the officers are more interested in imposing fines than order.


According to a January report in the Jianghuai Morning Post, some traffic officers in Fuzhou, Jiangxi Province, moved a sign marking a one-way street into an inconspicuous location so that they could fine people for driving in the wrong direction.


Traffic authorities in many parts of the country have not kept pace with the rapid rise in private automobile ownership. Roads are often in poor repair and traffic management plans, systems and mechanisms are woefully inadequate.


However, the Ministry of Public Security's Traffic Management Bureau reports that speeding, poor driving skills and poor vehicle maintenance are the three major causes of accidents.


Professor Yu Lei of Beijing Jiaotong University said in an interview earlier this year that while the government needs to enforce traffic laws strictly, it must also find ways to improve people's safety awareness.


"Statistics show that 95 percent of the expressway accidents are caused by human error," Yu said. "Those accidents caused by drunk drivers or by speeding could have been avoided."


China has 2 percent of the world's total vehicles, but accounts for 15 percent of its traffic fatalities. In 2004, 107,000 people died in traffic accidents.


(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong April 7, 2005)


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