Road safety in China

Key facts

  • In China, hundreds of thousands of people lose their lives and are injured each year due to road traffic crashes.
  • Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for persons aged between 15 and 44. This group accounts for more than half of all road user deaths. Vulnerable road users (pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists) account for the majority of deaths.
  • In rural areas, riders of motorbikes and bicycles are at risk of injury and death on unsafe roadways. The growth in the use of E-bikes (electric bikes) is an emerging issue.
  • Improving road safety throughout China involves a systematic approach to all relevant factors – the environment, the vehicle, and the user.
  • Focusing on the user, road safety programmes are increasing public awareness of risks, advocating appropriate legislation and supporting local legislation to better enforce existing laws.


  • Speed has been identified as a key risk factor in road traffic injuries in China. It accounts for 14% of all crashes resulting in death and influences both the risk of a crash and the severity of the injuries.
  • Pedestrians have been shown to have a 90% chance of survival when struck by a car travelling at 30km/h or below, but less than a 50% chance of surviving an impact at 45 km/h. Pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact at 80 km/hr.1,2
  • Speed enforcement activities are targeted at locations where and at times when drivers are likely to be speeding. Mobile and fixed speed cameras are being used.

Drink driving

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol increases both the risk of a crash and the likelihood that death or serious injury will result.
  • The risk of being involved in a crash increases significantly above a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 g/dl.
  • Laws that establish BACs of 0.05g/dl or below are effective at reducing the number of alcohol-related crashes.
  • In 2011, China implemented new legislation for drink driving and drunk driving. This was a watershed moment for drink-driving policy in China.
  • Under the new legislation, those with a BAC between 0.02g/100 ml and 0.08g/100 ml are identified as a "drink drivers"; those with a BAC in excess of 0.08g/100 ml are defined as "drunk drivers".
  • Drink drivers risk the seizure of their driving licence and a fine.3 Drunk Drivers can be detained until sober and lose their licence for five years.4 Drunk Drivers involved in severe accidents face criminal charge and the loss of their licence for life.


  • There is a growing trend toward the use of electric bikes or E-bikes.
  • By 2011, there were 120 million E-bikes registered in China, and the number is forecast to increase.
  • The majority of E-bikes on China's roads are capable of speeds in excess of the 20km/hr.
  • While the use of E-bikes has the potential to reduce environmental pollution, research indicates they have a significant impact on road crashes, fatalities and injuries.

About RS10

  • Road Safety initiative (RS 10), which is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, has been implemented in 10 middle- or low-income countries since 2010 and will run for five years (2010-2014).
  • Countries involved in the project are Brazil, Cambodia, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Viet Nam.
  • The project aims to reduce death and severe injuries caused by road traffic in middle- or low-income countries by applying effective intervention methods to the major risk factors of road traffic injuries.
  • In China, Dalian and Suzhou have been identified as pilot cities for implementation of the project. Two risk factors have been chosen for initial interventions. They are Drink Driving and Speed Control.
  • The goal of RS10 in China in 2012-2013 is to reduce speeds and drink-driving through targeted enforcement, increased penalties, public awareness and better laws.

1. Speed management-A road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners, WHO 2008.
2. OECD/ECMT Transport Research Centre: Speed Management report, Paris 2006 (available in English and French).
3. Detail of the ‘New Legislation’ for ‘Drink Drivers’:
“Anyone drives a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol shall be imposed upon the penalty of temporary seizure of his motor vehicle driving license for 6 months and be imposed upon a fine of not less than 1000 Yuan and not more than 2000 Yuan …”.
4. Detail of the ‘New Legislation’ for ‘Drunk Drivers’:
“Anyone drives a motor vehicle when he is drunk shall be restricted by the traffic administrative department of the public security organ until he becomes sober, his motor vehicle driving license shall be cancelled, and he shall not acquire vehicle driving license within 5 years.”