Reducing alcohol-related driving on china’s roads: Traffic police officers’ perceptions and practice

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Keqin Jia
Judy J Fleiter
Mark J King
Mary Sheehan
Michael Dunne
Wenjun Ma

A national law was introduced in China in 2011 to criminalize drunk driving, and impose serious penalties including jail for driving with a blood alcohol level of above 80mg/100ml. This pilot study, undertaken a year after introduction of the law, sought traffic police officers’ perceptions of drink driving and the practice of breath alcohol testing (BAT) in a large city in Guangdong Province, southern China. A questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews were used to gain an in-depth understanding of issues relevant to alcohol-related driving. Fifty-five traffic police officers were recruited for the survey and six traffic police officers with a variety of working experience including roadside alcohol breath testing, traffic crash investigation and police resourcing were interviewed individually. The officers were recruited by the first author with the assistance of the staff from Guangdong Institute of Public Health, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Interview participants reported three primary reasons why people drink and drive:

  1. being prepared to take the chance of not being apprehended by police
  2. the strong traditional Chinese drinking culture
  3. insufficient public awareness about the harmfulness of drink driving

Problems associated with the process of breath alcohol testing (BAT) were described and fit broadly into two categories: resourcing and avoiding detection. It was reported that there were insufficient traffic police officers to conduct routine traffic policing, including alcohol testing. Police BAT equipment was considered sufficient for routine traffic situations but not highway traffic operations. Local media and posters are used by the Public Security Bureau which is responsible for education about safe driving but participants thought that the education campaigns are limited in scope. Participants also described detection avoidance strategies used by drivers including: changing route; ignoring a police instruction to stop; staying inside the vehicle with windows and doors locked to avoid being tested; intentionally not performing breath tests correctly; and arguing with officers.

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