China Defends Ban on Running Yellow Lights Amid Protests

China’s Ministry of Public Security defended new traffic rules that make running a yellow light illegal, as state-run media and users of the nation’s online social networks criticized the regulations.

The rules, which took effect Jan. 1, are aimed at reducing accidents in major cities, and encourage safer and “more civil” driving, the ministry said yesterday on its website. Chinese authorities’ decision to change the traffic laws became one of the most popular topics on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging service in the last 24 hours, its website showed.

In a commentary published today, the Youth Daily, run by the Chinese Communist Party Youth League, said the rules are “against science” and will scare drivers into slowing down, which could make traffic worse.

The rule is impossible to observe because drivers won’t be able to brake in time for a full stop, the newspaper said. It said authorities should have elicited public opinion when drafting the regulations. More than just a “scratch of the head” is required to draft regulations, it said.

According to the new rules, drivers who fail to observe traffic signals get six demerit points, compared with three points previously. A driver’s license will be suspended after 12 points.

The new laws should have been more “science-based and human,” the official Xinhua News Agency said on its Weibo account.

Some estimates indicate there are more than 250,000 road traffic fatalities in China every year, a statistic that would make road accidents the leading cause of death among people between 15 and 44 years old in the country, according to the World Health Organization.