Lucky 8’s in China

We’ve posted before on the subjects of randomness and luck. Along those lines, there’s a fascinating article by Jim Yardley in today’s N.Y. Times about the Chinese appetite for lucky numbers — well, for 8’s, the luckiest of all numbers — and how the government now auctions off lucky license plates for thousands of dollars. It used to be that government officials and their families and friends got all the good license plates, but this was seen as a corrupt practice. So now the government auctions off the plates — AC6688 recently sold for $10,000 — with the proceeds supposedly going to the victims of automobile accidents. Considering that 100,000 people die each year in auto accidents in China (this is good news only if you are awaiting an organ transplant), this is probably a worthwhile cause. Yardley points out that the Chinese consider 8 to be such a lucky number that the Beijing Olympics are due to open on 8/8/08 at 8 p.m.


Mango

100,000 deaths isn't all that high, but...

I have been told that the 'official' estimate for automobile fatalities in China is far under the actual number (a family member recently spoke at a traffic safety conference in China, and came back with all sorts of interesting information). Some claim China has about a quarter million deaths per year. Even this is, per capita, not that much higher than American fatality numbers. I don't know about the ratio of fatalities to the number of automobiles. There difference between the two countries there would be much greater.

Among China's problems are lax traffic safety laws (eg. only front seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts), poorly maintained infrastructure, lack of safety features in Chinese-manufactured cars, and the fact that large numbers of Chinese drivers have no driver training, or even licenses.

pkimelma

Note that many traffic fatalities involve a car and a bicycle or pedestrian in China, at least according to the BBC. This is due to a number of factors, but includes the fact that bicycle riders in China do not wear helmets and many are carrying extra load (goods or people) and so are top heavy and less stable.

Craig

Maybe they'll stop reproducing when they reach 8 billion...

Or when our trade deficit with them reaches $8,888,888,888,888.

Doug H.

When I lived in Taiwan I noticed that most hospitals didn't have a 4th floor (the floor #s went from 3rd straight to 5th floor). I was told this was because the number 4 and "death" sound the same in Chinese.

George S

Traffic fatalities in China are extremely high, for many of the reasons pointed out in the previous comments. You also need to consider the following:
Trucks are the single biggest cause of fatal traffic accidents. Trucks are almost always dangerously overloaded and cargoes improperly secured, with the driver's view blocked. There are few if any requirements for roadworthiness (such as working tail lights, proper mirrors). They almost always use retread tires that come apart on high-speed freeways. It is common for drivers to go for long hours (24+) without sleep. Many trucks use cheap, unreliable counterfeit parts (brake pads, tires), and the most fundamental traffic laws are blatantly ignored (red lights, no U-turns, one-way streets, etc).
(On a much smaller scale, but equally real, are traffic accidents deliberately caused by highway bandits, who hijack or rob trucks making long transits at night between ports and industrial zones. This can involve dropping nails on the highway, digging up the road, and so on. Multiple vehicle pileups have occasionally resulted)

I lived in China during the height of the SARS crisis a few years ago, and I found it quite amusing that the US Consulate advised American citizens to avoid crowded public transportation such as trains and planes to lower the risk of SARS infection. They recommended that you travel in private vehicles instead whenever possible. I pointed out to them at the time that the odds of my being killed on a Chinese highway were 1000 times greater than the odds of my catching SARS on a train or plane. They stood by their recommendation.

Read more...

brett

George S makes an interesting observation about the relative safety of private vs. public transportation.

Perhaps it's in a society's best interest to not at all regulate private transportation in the hopes that chaos and death result. Then people will flock to the more efficient public transportation.

Mango

brett, one would think that if the government wanted to go down that road, they would simply *ban* private transportation. It would have the same results without all the death and suffering and whatnot.

Of course, given that the government owns most of the transportation infrastructure, both private and public, one might think they owe a duty of care to the people using it. If roads were privately owned then the government might be able to justify not regulating them, but the actual owner probably would.

Mango

100,000 deaths isn't all that high, but...

I have been told that the 'official' estimate for automobile fatalities in China is far under the actual number (a family member recently spoke at a traffic safety conference in China, and came back with all sorts of interesting information). Some claim China has about a quarter million deaths per year. Even this is, per capita, not that much higher than American fatality numbers. I don't know about the ratio of fatalities to the number of automobiles. There difference between the two countries there would be much greater.

Among China's problems are lax traffic safety laws (eg. only front seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts), poorly maintained infrastructure, lack of safety features in Chinese-manufactured cars, and the fact that large numbers of Chinese drivers have no driver training, or even licenses.

pkimelma

Note that many traffic fatalities involve a car and a bicycle or pedestrian in China, at least according to the BBC. This is due to a number of factors, but includes the fact that bicycle riders in China do not wear helmets and many are carrying extra load (goods or people) and so are top heavy and less stable.

Craig

Maybe they'll stop reproducing when they reach 8 billion...

Or when our trade deficit with them reaches $8,888,888,888,888.

Doug H.

When I lived in Taiwan I noticed that most hospitals didn't have a 4th floor (the floor #s went from 3rd straight to 5th floor). I was told this was because the number 4 and "death" sound the same in Chinese.

George S

Traffic fatalities in China are extremely high, for many of the reasons pointed out in the previous comments. You also need to consider the following:
Trucks are the single biggest cause of fatal traffic accidents. Trucks are almost always dangerously overloaded and cargoes improperly secured, with the driver's view blocked. There are few if any requirements for roadworthiness (such as working tail lights, proper mirrors). They almost always use retread tires that come apart on high-speed freeways. It is common for drivers to go for long hours (24+) without sleep. Many trucks use cheap, unreliable counterfeit parts (brake pads, tires), and the most fundamental traffic laws are blatantly ignored (red lights, no U-turns, one-way streets, etc).
(On a much smaller scale, but equally real, are traffic accidents deliberately caused by highway bandits, who hijack or rob trucks making long transits at night between ports and industrial zones. This can involve dropping nails on the highway, digging up the road, and so on. Multiple vehicle pileups have occasionally resulted)

I lived in China during the height of the SARS crisis a few years ago, and I found it quite amusing that the US Consulate advised American citizens to avoid crowded public transportation such as trains and planes to lower the risk of SARS infection. They recommended that you travel in private vehicles instead whenever possible. I pointed out to them at the time that the odds of my being killed on a Chinese highway were 1000 times greater than the odds of my catching SARS on a train or plane. They stood by their recommendation.

Read more...

brett

George S makes an interesting observation about the relative safety of private vs. public transportation.

Perhaps it's in a society's best interest to not at all regulate private transportation in the hopes that chaos and death result. Then people will flock to the more efficient public transportation.

Mango

brett, one would think that if the government wanted to go down that road, they would simply *ban* private transportation. It would have the same results without all the death and suffering and whatnot.

Of course, given that the government owns most of the transportation infrastructure, both private and public, one might think they owe a duty of care to the people using it. If roads were privately owned then the government might be able to justify not regulating them, but the actual owner probably would.