Campaign needed over road toll

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 May, 2015, 12:22am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 May, 2015, 12:22am

It is time an all-out campaign was targeted at the mainland's deplorable road safety record - one comparable with the effort to make factories safer. After all, the road toll is a blot on China's rise comparable with the darkest days of its industrial safety record. We have been accustomed to tragic reminders of deep-rooted workplace risk, notably in the massive coal-mining industry. A succession of state leaders, most recently President Xi Jinping , have lent their weight to a daunting campaign to change safety mindsets and priorities from boardroom to coalface.

Proof that such campaigns can work is that the tragic reminders are growing less frequent, and less dire. No time should be lost in launching one on the roads.

What sets road accidents apart is the terrible toll they take of tomorrow's generation. The World Health Organisation says traffic accidents are now killing up to 10,000 children a year on the mainland as car ownership escalates.

The UN agency's man on the spot in China, Bernard Schwartlander, puts the shocking figure in perspective: "That's almost 30 [children dying in road accidents] each day . . . travelling with their families, walking or playing in the streets, going to and from school."

The motor vehicle as a symbol of prosperity has simply outpaced road laws and manners. Given the steady, if often frustrating progress in bringing workplace safety up to the most basic world standards, party and government authorities should heed Schwartlander's call for a three-pronged strategy - put in place and enforce effective road safety laws, monitor vehicle production quality, and encourage parents to ensure their children wear helmets when riding bicycles.

Indeed, it is time for another high-profile campaign supported from the top of party and government that addresses these issues and a range of human factors that are universal - such as speed, drink-driving and failure to wear seat belts. Relentless enforcement of mandatory penalties for infringements should include loss of licences.