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Traffic Rules for Pedestrians and Driving in China

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Being a Pedestrian

Crossing the road should be the only time that pedestrians and vehicles meet, however many pedestrians prefer to walk on the road (sometimes justifiably if the pavement is cluttered or in poor condition, but often not) and vehicles mount the pavement to park. The best advice is nevertheless to avoid jaywalking and keep to the sidewalk or the right hand side of the road if at all possible.

Pedestrian streets do not permit bicycles, even those being pushed. There is often a designated place to lock your bike where it will be watched by an attendant for a small fee (less than 1 yuan). Crossing the road should be attempted with caution in China, but many throw caution to the wind wandering across the road without waiting for a safe gap in the traffic, or by relying on vehicles avoiding them or stopping. There is safety in numbers, and often pedestrians will amass on a sidewalk and cross together, forcing traffic to a standstill.

Pedestrian crossings are not observed by vehicles usually, with pedestrians often left standing on a crossing with vehicles weaving around them. Even when the green light displays it is sometimes not safe to cross as often the traffic lights have been programmed to allow vehicles (particularly those turning left) to cross while the green walking man displays.

The best advice is still to look left and right carefully and wait for a safe gap in the traffic before crossing.

Driving

Drivers of anything with a petrol engine, even a moped, in China must obtain a Chinese driving license, as not even an international license is valid in China. The Chinese driving test involves a written test (only available in English in larger cities) and a short and relatively easy practical test. Foreigners with a current overseas license only need to take the written test.

All vehicles driven in China must have been registered and have passed routine safety inspection, which is recorded on the vehicle license. All drivers must carry the vehicle license for the vehicle they are driving, a valid driving license and Chinese drivers insurance (obtained from the same office as the safety inspection).

Drive defensively and be prepared to stop or avoid other road users, especially those doing the things noted above. Follow the rules of the road and be polite and patient, then even if there are unforeseen circumstances that cause an accident, you will have done all you can to prevent it and shouldn’t be held to accountable.

In the event of an accident the thing that is penalized most heavily is leaving the scene. If the accident is serious or requires police resolution, call 122 for the traffic police. Call 120 for an ambulance and 119 for the fire service, as required. If someone requires rescuing, the law requires that you attempt a rescue, but that you should mark the position of anything that was moved.

The original condition of the accident scene should be preserved as much as possible, if police intervention is required. Often after accidents, even minor ones, vehicles involved are left in the middle of the road while other vehicles make their way around, until the police arrive. If there is no (serious) personal injury and all parties agree on the circumstances, then parties may leave the scene of an accident and make compensation claims without police intervention.

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