On January 1, new rules for traffic lights have been imposed in China. The new rules require drivers who fail to stop for yellow lights be issued citations and have points deducted from the licenses. The fines and number of points deducted have doubled.

Some localities, including Shenzhen, are not enforcing the stop on yellow rule because the traffic light cameras are not properly calibrated. This has brought criticism from cities that are enforcing the rule.

Of course bloggers have hit the internet to discuss and criticize the new rules. The most frequently voiced complaint is why have a yellow light if it requires a full stop, just like the red. Why not just have a green, blinking green and red? There is no real purpose for the yellow under the new rules.

Another often voiced concern is without some sort of a signal that a light is about to change color, drivers are forced to slow down when approaching a green in anticipation that it might suddenly change. If they are driving at highway speed they can not stop for an unexpected yellow light and risk a citation. One blogger wrote he crashed into the back of the car in front of him when it stopped suddenly for an unexpected yellow light.

A Guangzhou official said the stop on yellow regulation should be enforced. He was quoted saying, “If both green and yellow lights mean go, then why should we have a three-color control system?” Bloggers turned the question around and asked why have both red and yellow lights if they both mean stop? In a similar twist, Xinhua News Agency reporter Liu Yang noted, “In a three-color traffic control system, green means go, yellow means slow and red means stop. It is not right to treat yellow the same as red.”

Many complained that the new rules have caused traffic to move slower for fear of being caught going through a yellow light. Apparently this is one of the intended consequences. An official with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) told China Central Television on Wednesday if drivers focused on the road, maintained a safe distance from vehicles in front of them and slowed down when approaching traffic lights, they could avoid rear-end collisions and illegally passing through yellow lights.

It seems that slowing the overall speed of traffic has been successful. Yu Ran, the manager of a company in Beijing, reported she has driven at a snail’s pace since New Year’s Day to avoid incurring the new penalty. But why would the government want to slow traffic? Smooth flowing traffic is part of commerce. Is it now a goal of the government to slow and impeded business?

Despite the controversy and confusion the MPS, which wrote and imposed the new ordinances, has shown no sign of revising or rescinding the laws.

The new traffic laws are a bureaucrat’s wet dream. The laws are completely unnecessary, unpopular, hard to follow, punitive, cumbersome, slow the flow of commerce, and raise revenues for the government.

UPDATE: The January 7 issue of Global Times reported the MPS partially backed down from the new regulations. It reported for the time being only warnings will be issued for running a yellow light and no points will be deducted from the scofflaw’s license.

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