Chinese Netizens Are Done with Abuse of Emergency Lane, Support Proposal for Tougher Punishments

As the ‘Two Sessions,’ the annual gatherings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), continue, thirty representatives of the Jiangsu NPC submitted a proposal that received a lot of attention on Chinese social media this week.

Emergency lane drivers should face tougher punishments to safeguard traffic safety, the proposal says. Illegal use of emergency lanes is commonplace in China, leading to dangerous situations and making it more difficult for rescue vehicles to make it to the scene of an accident.

Currently, drivers are fined 200 yuan ($30) for occupying the reserved lane, along with a 6-point driver’s license deduction. In some cases, they might even face some days in prison.

If it is up to the Jiangsu NPC deputies, this punishment will be increased to a 3000 yuan ($444) fine and a 12-point deduction.* This means that the offender’s driver’s license would be immediately revoked for at least three months and that the offender needs to take a 7-day training and take a new examination in order to get their license back. The 12-point deduction punishment is equal to the punishment for drunk driving or fleeing after a traffic incident.

The proposal further calls for a 15 days prison sentence when drivers are caught using the emergency lane for the third time.

The Jiangsu NPC’s proposal seems to resonate with Chinese netizens.  Within a day after the news first made its rounds, the hashtag “Proposal to Deduct 12 Points for Those Illegally Using the Emergency Lane” (#建议违法占用应急车道扣12分#) received more than 25 million views on Weibo.

One Weibo commenter says: “I propose to install a ‘photo reporting system’ where whistleblowers are rewarded with money. This money reward can come out of the fine, and I tell you, this phenomenon [of people illegally driving in the emergency lane] would be eradicated within no time.”

Another typical comment read: “I absolutely support this proposal, and in my opinion, the punishments should be even tougher.” Many others posted comparable comments, calling for “immediate detainment” and a “life-long prohibition to drive” for these lawbreakers.

What perhaps contributes to the general support for the new proposal is recent media coverage that focuses on the dangers of illegally blocking the emergency lane. Earlier this year, a viral video showed a desperate mother crying on the street when rescue workers were unable to assist her injured daughter; the ambulance was blocked because of vehicles occupying the emergency lane. At the time, the video caused outrage on social media.

This week, the Yangtse Evening Post (扬子晚报), a newspaper from Jiangsu province, published an article listing the various emergency situations where paramedics were hindered in doing their job because of illegal emergency lane driving.

Despite the public support for this proposal, there is no guarantee that it will actually be implemented. Every year, many proposals are put forward during the two-week ‘Two Sessions,’ and only some will actually lead to legislative amendments.

By Gabi Verberg

*Each driver has 12 points in his driver’s license a year that can be deducted. For “minor” violations such as speeding, talking on the phone while driving, a few points will be deducted. More serious crimes, such as running a red light or covering one’s license plate, will be punished with a 6-, 10- or 12-point reduction. Combined with this point deduction, people will often face fines or short-time imprisonment.

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