China Teams with International Expertise to Improve Road Safety

National and International members of the China seatbelt intervention Steering Committee met this week in Beijing to discuss the progress of a leading project in the province of Guangzhou, which addresses the low usage of seatbelt wearing rates among drivers and front seat passengers in China.

The China Seatbelt Intervention Project is a co-operation between the
Chinese government, international organizations and industry.

The implementation of this project is guided by the members of the
Steering Committee which includes the Traffic Administration Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security of China, officials from the Ministry of Health, officials from the Public Security and Traffic Departments of Guangzhou Municipal Government, officials and specialists from the WHO, representative of sponsoring company (BP) and technical leaders, The George Institute for International Health.

Recognizing the potential of this intervention to significantly reduce
deaths and injuries on China’s roads, the Chinese government has embraced international best practice in line with existing government policy and highlights the intent of the new road safety law.

World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in China, Dr Henk Bekedam, spoke out in support of the project, encouraging individuals to take up safer driving practices for the sake of themselves and their families.

“Today, China accounts for around 15% of the world’s total number of
deaths from traffic accidents every year, and the number has been increasing by 10% annually,” Dr Bekedam said. “Almost 10,000 road traffic crashes took place in Guangzhou during 2004, resulting in 1,800 deaths and almost 12,000 people injured. Throughout China, this death toll exceeds 100,000 people each year.’

“The high rate of road injury is reportedly not surprising considering that motor vehicle production has tripled since the early 1990s. Due to the rapid growth of large urban centres such as Guangzhou there is an urgent need to implement proven road safety interventions.”

Research indicates up to 70 percent of deaths from car crashes could be prevented if the occupants wore seatbelts. However, despite the availability of seatbelts in almost all passenger cars in China, along with laws stipulating the use of seatbelts, their use is low.

The George Institute for International Health officially launched the
‘China Seatbelt Intervention Project’ in Guangzhou in mid-2005. Adopting practices reportedly found successful around the world, senior police and traffic officers attended seatbelt law enforcement training and commenced intensive enforcement program in October 2005, in which almost 3000 vehicles were inspected and 1000 drivers or passengers not wearing their seatbelt were penalized or educated.

This scientific approach will reportedly assist policy makers to best identify how to carry out this type of intervention and demonstrate how
to gain the most impact and benefits to Chinese citizens.

To complement the intervention, an intensive social marketing campaign is underway, focusing on raising awareness of road traffic safety laws, according to the Traffic Command and Control Center of Guangzhou Municipal Bureau of Public Security. It is being rolled out in collaboration with training managers of taxi companies and members of traffic safety committees.

According to the WHO, road traffic injuries are the ninth cause of human death globally. In 2020, this ranking is expected to move to third, overtaking diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria. In China, road traffic injuries are predicted to increase by a further 92 percent by 2020 in the absence of urgent prevention measures.

The 24-month intervention project is due for completion in October 2006. The project will have implemented best practice in relation to strategies to increase the use of seatbelts and it is anticipated that the project will see an increase in seatbelt restraint use of at least 20 percent.