An angry driver in Beijing shouts at another motorist during a traffic jam in 2012. Reuters/Petar Kujundzic

And that’s just in 2015. Anger behind the wheel is so common that China has launched a public “road etiquette” program.

Driving in China can be nightmarishhazardous, even. As if grueling traffic jams and thick blankets of smog blocking road visibility aren’t already bad enough, China’s Ministry of Public Security now says the country also has a serious road rage problem. In 2015 alone, the traffic police recorded more than 17 million cases of heated scuffles between aggressive drivers—a 2.8 increase from the year before. An overwhelming 97 percent of the incidents were committed by men, according to the government.

Some cases, involving abrupt lane changes and aggressive passing, make for amusing YouTube videos captured by dash cams. Others are far more violent, the Wall Street Journal reports:

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.

The news comes just weeks after the World Health Organization released a road safety report estimating that China had more than 260,000 road deaths in 2013. In 2014, national data shows that distracted driving—when drivers eat, use their phones, or even read while behind the wheel— accounted for more than a third of traffic fatalities. Meanwhile, more than 80,000 traffic accidents in 2013 were the result of road rage. And that number went up 2.4 percent in 2014.

The Ministry of Public Security has said that acting on road rage is a severe violation of law. That has not stopped people from destroying one another’s cars or beating their fellow drivers. And China’s murky victim compensation laws don’t exactly help: A lawyer and Fordham University professor sparked debate in September when he wrote that China has an unspoken “hit-to-kill” rule. Writing in Slate, Geoffrey Sant points to cases in which drivers have intentionally run over a pedestrian they’ve hit to avoid bearing the cost of caring for a survivor.

As the number of drivers rises in what is already the world’s leading auto market—with more than 20 million new motorists hitting the road each year, according to the Wall Street Journal—China is looking to clamp down on dangerous and reckless behavior. Last month, the government launched a road etiquette program to “boost public awareness of safe and polite driving,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency reports. The lessons will be carried over mass media to villages and in driving schools to discourage road rage, as well as street racing and drunk driving.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    Changing Tides Engulf the South Street Seaport

    Mayor Ed Koch wanted a family-friendly attraction for Lower Manhattan. But this 1983 icon of yuppie-era NYC was swept off course by changing tastes.

  2. animated illustration: cars, bikes, scooters and drones in motion.
    Transportation

    This City Was Sick of Tech Disruptors. So It Decided to Become One.

    To rein in traffic-snarling new mobility modes, L.A. needed digital savvy. Then came a privacy uproar, a murky cast of consultants, and a legal crusade by Uber.

  3. a photo of a New Orleans pothole
    Life

    Here’s a Pothole Stunt for the Ages in New Orleans

    Tired of waiting for the city to fix their street, residents of the Irish Channel neighborhood furnished their pothole and listed it as an Airbnb rental. It worked.

  4. photo: Cranes on the skyline in Oakland, California
    Life

    How to Make a Housing Crisis

    The new book Golden Gates details how California set itself up for its current affordability crunch—and how it can now help build a nationwide housing movement.

  5. photo: Uber and Lyft vehicles.
    Transportation

    Ride-Hailing Isn’t Really Green

    The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that the environmental impact of Uber and Lyft rides is 69% worse than the transportation modes they replace.

×