Chinese doc to 'cure' bad driving

Chinese doc to 'cure' bad driving

Road safety

Dr Jin Huiqing has spent nearly three decades trying to figure out why some motorists seem more accident-prone than others. He has translated his research into a lucrative business selling his road safety programme to Chinese municipalities. At least one city using his methods reports a decline in traffic deaths.

He has studied the records of thousands of Chinese bus, van and cab drivers, put dozens through neurological tests, examined hundreds of blood samples. Since last year, he’s even been trying to find gene markers for bad drivers.

“Cars can be fitted with the highest levels of equipment: safety belts, air bags, and so on. Roads can be more regulated. But people, how can you help them become better?” Jin said in an interview in the central city of Hefei, where he is based. “People still need to be controlled, they must face restrictions.”

Jin tries to target the root cause of crashes by identifying the physical or psychological traits of poor drivers, such as risk-taking or poor response time under stress, and keeping them off the streets or ensuring they get adequate training. The cost of traffic casualties is so high that accident-prone people should at least be barred from driving commercially, he said.

Similar studies in the West have sparked debate among researchers, with many dismissing the findings as too uncertain to be of any use. And extreme use of a genetic approach could limit someone’s right to drive based on DNA — unfeasible in many countries.

But China is grasping for solutions to its risky roads. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for Chinese aged 15 to 44, growing apace with an 11-fold jump in the number of motor vehicles between 1990 and 2008.

Jin’s company, Anhui Sanlian Group, developed a three-pronged approach to road safety that involves a battery of tests to screen drivers, training with simulators and surveillance cameras to closely monitor roads for problems.

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