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Drivers Angry About Hidden Cameras

Beijing traffic department has said it will work out new vehicle surveillance procedures following complaints from the public.

Drivers have become increasingly angry at practices such as hidden cameras that trap unsuspecting motorists, who usually do not know they have broken the law until later.

The outcry reached a climax this week when a driver was fined more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,200) after being caught breaking traffic regulations at the same spot on 105 separate occasions.

The driver, Du Baoliang, who makes a living by selling vegetables in Beijing, did not know that his truck was being recorded by cameras almost every morning.

He only realized what he had done when he was forced to visit a traffic management office last Wednesday to check his fines.

Jiang Ming'an, a professor at Peking University, said: "Traffic law enforcement departments should inform violators in time so that they can avoid repeatedly breaking the same traffic regulation."

"The purpose of penalizing drivers is not just to fine them but also to educate them not to break traffic rules again," Jiang added.

Drivers in Beijing need to go to traffic management offices or visit the department's official website to check their fines. They can also call a special number that costs 3 yuan (36 US cents) per minute.

However, most drivers do not check regularly. As a result, many of them often break the same traffic rule at the same place on a number of occasions.

"Traffic signs are usually placed at the right side of a road," said a young driver named Jiang Wei. "But the signs are often blocked by huge buses or big trees.

"When I go to a new place or when a new traffic sign is put up, I find it difficult to read them.

"I might be recorded by cameras for violations, but I might not know that I have driven incorrectly in the first place," Jiang complained.

Li Da, a lawyer in Beijing, said electronic traffic surveillance puts much more emphasis on fines rather than preventing violations, which is not good for traffic management in the long run.

"Penalization should not become a regular practice for the enforcement of traffic regulations," said Li.

However, Zhang Jingchun, an official with the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, said each driver should observe traffic rules no matter whether the police were on the spot or not.

But the bureau said yesterday that it was considering working out new policies to improve traffic surveillance.

In another development, a driver involved in an accident is asking the pedestrian responsible for the incident to pay car repair fees of 19,700 yuan (US$2,400).

The case is reported to be the first of its kind in Beijing after the Road Traffic Safety Law came into effect last May.

The first hearing was held yesterday at Beijing Haidian District People's Court. No judgment has yet been given.

Last March, a worker at Beijing Chengweiming Real Estate Development Company was driving a car when the respondent, Liu Yinsuo, walked onto the road.

The car hit Liu, injuring him. The car was also damaged.

Local traffic police decided in November that Liu was fully responsible for the accident.

However, Liu claimed yesterday that the driver was exceeding the speed limit when the accident occurred.

And he said the driver failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the accident.

(China Daily June 8, 2005)

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