China kicked off 2013 with a new stop light

Alia | January 4th, 2013 - 4:22 pm

What dubbed by Chinese netizens as the “most harsh traffic rule” went into effect on Tuesday, the first day of 2013. By this new rule, China basically re-defines how a yellow traffic light works – from 2013 day 1, running a yellow light would be punished in the same way as running a red light. Any driver violates the new rule will be given a deduction of 6 points from their drivers’ licenses; and a total deduction of 12 points results in the suspension of a driver’s license. Redeem is only possible after traffic rule classes and tests.

OK to pass only when the car already passes the line before the light turns yellow

Driving in China, especially in its big cities, is difficult not only because of the sheer number of cars, scooters, bikes and pedestrians on roads, but more importantly because many of them tend to ignore traffic rules. For example, just last month, a woman died in an ambulance in Beijing because it was stuck in traffic for more than 40 mins to get to a hospital only less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) away. Beijing is notorious for its long and impossible traffic jams, but what makes this case worse is that no car made way for the ambulance and even the emergency lanes were all clogged. Drivers are not the only ones who are guilty. Earlier in 2012, the “Chinese way of crossing a street” has been a topic of national debates. It refers to the commonly-seen scene where Chinese pedestrians cross a street whenever there is a big enough group gathered together to do so, rather than waiting for a green light.

The new rule meant to do good because drivers in China are so used to rushing through yellow lights regardless of whether they are within a safe distance from the traffic lights. But equaling a yellow light to a red light is believed by most Chinese as a stupid non-solution. Many netizens argued that to safely stop at a yellow light, one has to either abruptly stop at the intersection as soon as the light turns yellow or to slow down even when the light is still green, both of which will be likely to increase the occurrence of rear-end crashes.

In response to the new rule, Chinese netizens demonstrated once again their talent of mockery. The key questions is: how many colors should China use in its traffic lights?

刘春, CEO of SOHU, asked: “In this case, why not take out yellow lights and keep only the red and the green ones?” The question makes perfect sense in the scenario described by netizen elit: “Many intersections in Beijing use only flashing yellow lights after 12 am. Does it mean that now with the new rule, cars passing those intersections have to stop there all night?”

Netizen 俞白眉, however, proposed an entirely different model: “There are still problems with 3-color traffic lights. There should be 7 colors, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and velvet. Each color signifies a different speed limit. Red is 0 mph, orange is 5 mph, yellow is 20 mph, green is normal speed, and so on so forth…velvet would be low-altitude flying. If 7-color traffic light still doesn’t work, we can try 256 colors.” Opposite to 俞白眉’s proposal, some others went minimalist. Netizen 光头王凯 suggested: “Given the logic of the new rule, neither yellow lights nor red lights have a reason to stay. One green light alone can do the job – green light on, pass; green light off, stop.”

Probably realizing the rising backlash, traffic police in many cities like Shenzhen and Jinan announced that they won’t punish running yellow lights in the near future.

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