Yellow is the new red on China's roads

AP News
Posted: Jan 02, 2013 4:12 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Drivers in China are seeing red over a new crackdown on running through intersections when the lights are yellow.

While announcing new rules that double the penalty for traffic light violations, officials also have stressed that running a yellow light will now be considered equivalent to running a red one.

Drivers accustomed to considering the yellow light a warning and the red light an imperative have been left confused, wondering how they can stop suddenly for a yellow light.

Even the official Xinhua News Agency has joined the criticism.

In a "micro-commentary" on its Twitter-like Sina Weibo account, Xinhua cited pioneering physicist Isaac Newton on the difficulty of stopping the momentum of something in motion, saying the new rules are "unreasonable and contrary to Newton's first law."

Police nationwide must enforce the new guidelines on stopping on both red and yellow to protect people's safety, said Li Qing, an official from the Ministry of Public Security's Traffic Administration, in an interview on China Central Television.

Under the new rules that went into effect Tuesday, penalties for traffic light violations doubled to six points on the 12-point scale for losing a license. If your vehicle is already partly over the line when the light changes from green to yellow, you may continue. Otherwise, you must stop, Li said.

In some cities, the traffic lights count down the seconds until the color changes, but this isn't always the case, including at many intersections in Beijing.

The new rules have sparked outrage online from irate drivers, who have complained of the dangers of stopping short in front of other drivers or the inconvenience of always having to slow down when approaching intersections.

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In a comment that has been forwarded more than 23,000 times, one driver wrote on Weibo that he had smashed into the back of a car that had suddenly stopped for a yellow light.

"I would like to say whoever made this yellow light rule must be stupid and evil. Everybody, when you are 1 kilometer away from the lights start to slow down ... I wish you the best of luck," wrote Beijing-based Sun Yixuan.

"Netizens say it is difficult to stop on a yellow light. If you reduce your speed to very slow as you come up to the junction, this leads to unbearable traffic congestion," Xinhua said.

Road accidents in China are frequent, due in part to bad driving habits and poorly maintained vehicles.