Eighteen dead after coach collides with truck on Chinese highway
Head-on crash happened in central province of Hunan when passenger vehicle crossed central reservation
At least 18 people were killed and 14 others injured in a head-on collision between a coach and a truck in central China, local police said on Saturday.
The accident in Hunan province happened on Friday night when the passenger vehicle crossed a central reservation on a highway in Hengdong county and hit the truck.
Nine people from the coach and one from the truck were confirmed dead on Friday night.
The death toll was increased to 18 on Saturday, and the injured were receiving treatment in four local hospitals.
Traffic controls were imposed after the accident which led to traffic jams of up to 10km (6 miles) in either direction. Local police said their investigation had finished by Saturday morning and the roads fully reopened.
The coach was travelling from Zhongshan in Guangdong province bound for Pingyu in Henan province, where the operators are based.
The 1,400km journey normally takes around 25 hours and staff members at the coach company told The Beijing News the vehicle should carry two drivers at all times.
Its report said the coach was carrying around 20 passengers, less than half the permitted maximum of 55.
There has been no official announcement of the number of people involved in the crash.
Huang Jianhua, a 47-year passenger who was injured, said the coach was not full and travellers had been asked to fasten their seatbelts.
He said he was looking at his mobile phone at the time of the crash but lost consciousness immediately after the impact.
The authorities are investigating the cause of the accident and the Ministry of Public Security has sent a team to guide the investigation.
Beijing Youth Daily reported that the Henan provincial authorities had previously warned the company about the risks of letting its drivers work while tired.
In April, the company was ordered to provide training to drivers that made them aware of the risks from fatigue.
Speeding, dangerous passing, poorly maintained vehicles and fatigued drivers are the major cause of traffic accidents in China.
The World Health Organisation calculated in 2016 that about 260,000 Chinese people die each year in road accidents, many of them pedestrians, cyclists or motorbike riders.
The Geneva-based body said traffic accidents were among the top 10 causes of deaths worldwide and the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 29.
It said up to 3 per cent of the world’s GDP was lost to road traffic deaths and injuries, and as much as 5 per cent in low- to middle-income countries.
Experts said the increasing use of electric bikes in urban areas in China for courier deliveries had become a new concern for road safety with the development of e-business.
The accident has renewed the online debate about road safety and prompted calls for change.
“The government should abolish coach journeys above 500km. The death toll is too high and there are devastating accidents each year,” one internet user said.
“They are mostly privately operated. Drivers have no Sundays off [for rest] and spend day and night on the road in a state of constant fatigue.”