Outcry over new rule preventing drivers from running yellow lights

Motorists hit out at a new regulation that aims to prevent them from running yellow lights, saying it asks them to defy the laws of physics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 4:12am

A new traffic regulation that aims to stop mainlanders running yellow lights has caused an outcry, with many internet users and drivers saying it will lead to more accidents.

The rule, which came into effect on New Year's Day, says drivers will receive six demerit points if their cars cross the stop line at a junction after the yellow light goes on. They will not be penalised if their cars have already crossed the stop line before the yellow light flashes.

A driver who was driving at 30km/h in Chengdu , Sichuan , got six demerit points and was fined 200 yuan (HK$246) on Tuesday for failing to stop. Drivers who accumulate 12 demerit points face losing their driving licence.

Motorists and state media said the law was not compatible with normal driving behaviour and called for it to be scrapped.

An online poll on found that about 2,000 microblog users supported the rule, with more than 10,000 opposed to it.

Ma Hongtao, a China Central Television anchor, said he had no choice but to break the new rule.

"When I was about to cross the stop line, the traffic light suddenly turned to yellow," he said. "I just could not stop my car. I just wonder if the officials who came up with such a rule could stop in such circumstances."

Facing mounting criticism, traffic police in Shenzhen, Jinan and Nanchang , said they would not put the new regulation into practice because of difficulties in collecting evidence.

A comment posted on the microblog of state-run Xinhua said the new regulation ran counter to the laws of physics.

"A driver probably needs to slow down his car to a very low speed, or brake their car all of a sudden before the traffic lights," it said. "This will only result in more severe … collisions. It is an unreasonable rule that violates Newton's First Law of Motion, and should be amended."

Newton's law says that a moving object tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an another force.

A driver in Beijing said on his microblog that he violated the rule three times yesterday because the yellow light came on when his car was just five metres from the stop line.

"I was driving at a speed of 35km/h," the driver said. "Unless I brake my car, it is impossible for me to stop before the line."

A heated online debate on running yellow lights was triggered in April when a court in Jiaxing , Zhejiang , ruled in favour of traffic police who fined a driver 150 yuan. Article 26 of the Road Traffic Safety Law says a red light means no through traffic, a green light means passage permitted and that a yellow light is a warning.

"The purpose of the yellow light is to alert drivers to stop their cars," one microblogger said. "If its function is the same as the red light, why didn't we just scrap the yellow light?"

A person in charge of traffic administration under the Ministry of Public Security said accidents could be avoided if there was enough distance between cars, Xinhua reported.

The person said accidents in cities including Beijing and Nanjing on Tuesday had dropped by between 9.3 and 29.8 per cent from Monday after the new regulation was implemented, with police also cracking down on drink driving.