The Ministry of Public Security announced on Wednesday that from January to March there were 117,220 traffic accidents nationwide, resulting in 118,887 injuries, 23,411 deaths and the loss of 490.0 million yuan (US$59.0 million) worth of property.
The number of accidents fell 14 percent and deaths were down by 7 percent, although the number of injuries climbed 14 percent year-on-year.
Drunk driving and violations of traffic laws led to more than 3,200 road deaths, officials said.
Although road use spiked during the Spring Festival period, said officials, deaths from accidents involving public transportation in that period declined as a result of improved traffic management.
In 2004, a total of 517,889 road accidents claimed the lives of 107,077 people and injured another 480,864, causing 2.4 billion yuan (US$287.9 million) in property damage.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, a senior official from the State Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) confirmed that the government has begun tightening inspections of passenger vehicles with more than nine seats.
Vice Director Han Yi of AQSIQ's Quality Control Department said that the nationwide quality overhaul will target larger vehicles because most road accidents are related to passenger transportation.
In 2004, 852 people were killed in 55 severe road accidents, or those in which more than 10 people die. Of the total, 32 accidents or 58.2 percent, were related to larger passenger vehicles, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
AQSIQ has decided to enforce recalls of defective vehicles with more than nine seats by 2006, Han told representatives of more than 60 manufacturers. The group was gathered in Beijing for a two-day international symposium on auto recalls.
The announcement came in the wake of a recent spate of major accidents involving commercial and school buses.
This Monday, 40 passengers were injured on the Qinghai-Tibet highway when the bus they were in overturned. The 42-passenger vehicle, en route from Chengdu to Lhasa, was carrying 60 passengers at the time of the accident. No one was killed.
On Tuesday in Quxian, southwest China's Sichuan Province, an overloaded truck hit 15 students on their way home from school, leaving one dead and 14 others injured, one of them critically.
Also on Tuesday, three people were confirmed dead with one more seriously injured when a minibus ran into a dumpster in Yinchuan, the capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
(Xinhua News Agency April 7, 2005)