Can Traffic Cams Keep China's Drivers From Purposely Killing Pedestrians?

The country's rules for traffic accidents make it cheaper to kill than to injure. 


Stateside, the red light cams installed at seemingly every major intersection have yet to prove they’re good for anything beyond tapping driver’s wallets. But an absolutely chilling report about China’s hit-to-kill culture makes us rethink their uses.

Slate’s Geoffrey Sant has written a horrific essay about how many drivers in China prefer to kill someone rather than merely injure them in a car accident. It’s cold economics. The cost of killing someone in a traffic accident is a one-time payment ranging from $30,000 to $50,000, whereas a lifetime of care for a disabled survivor can cost millions. “It is better to hit to kill than hit and injure,” they say. The result is drivers who re-run over people they hit. In one confirmed case, a driver repeatedly ran over a 2-year-old girl to make sure she was dead, presumably to avoid the risk of paying for her healthcare.

In this culture, having cameras on every street makes complete sense. Gizmodo wrote about how a Chinese intersection with 60 security cameras was ridiculed as an obvious way to monitor citizens until the government finally removed a few. But, holy hell, reading that Slate story, is 60 enough?

It might not be! Despite being caught on security footage clearly driving his Passat back and forth over a 64-year-old grandmother multiple times back in 2008, driver Zhao Xiao Cheng was found not guilty of intentional homicide. He claimed he thought he was running over trash bags and was sentenced to just three years for negligence. China will need reforms to its sentencing practices and no doubt to its insurance system to take all the incentive out of killing the wounded. But for the immediate future, traffic cams, cell phone cams, and dash cams might be the best defense against that second, third, and fourth return to the spot of an accident.