After a string of fatal drunk driving-related car crashes during the recent Lunar New Year holiday period, China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) is cracking down on drunk driving, an act that only recently became a criminal offense in China.
Up until 2011, drunk driving was considered a minor offense in China. In fact, drunk driving was pretty much legal, as long as you didn’t hit anything. After a report revealed that there were over 40,000 drunk driving cases in 2009 and that 3,500 people were killed and 9,000 injured due to drunk driving between 2006 and 2010, China’s government finally made the act of driving while impaired a crime.
Before the law was amended, drunk drivers faced just 15 days of detainment and a 3-to-6-month driver’s license suspension, if the drunk driver caused a traffic crash. After the law was amended in 2011 and again in 2013, simply driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.05 is a criminal offense punishable by jail time of up to 2 years (up to 10 years if a crash occurs and people are killed), a fine, and a 5-year or more license revocation. Drunk drivers can even face a fine and license suspension if caught driving with a BAC of 0.03.
A report released by China’s National Police Agency in late December revealed that the amended law is helping to reduce drunk driving deaths. From January through November of 2013, the country’s drunk driving-related fatalities decreased by about 36% from the previous year.
However, the Lunar New Year, which fell on January 31 this year, remains a peak drunk driving season in China. The country saw more than 800 cases of driving under the influence just between January 30 and February 2. In an effort to reduce drunk driving cases and fatalities throughout the country, China’s MPS has ordered traffic police to be more proactive in searching for drunk drivers on both urban and rural roads and to conduct stricter inspections to determine if drivers are intoxicated, even if only slightly above the legal limit.