Car Ownership Explodes in China, Honking Banned in Shanghai

By: Rain Stockton

In Shanghai, you may try driving you Nissan Maxima and test how good its are (is the Maxima available in China?) -but, you may not use at all costs, your car's horns.

A new law banning honking in the downtown area of Shanghai is prompting local residents and car owners to toot a different horn. Car owners are reportedly paying up to $100 to have their horns sound with music or a human-voiced warning instead of a honk, came the report from the Shanghai Daily newspaper.

The honking ban went into effect June 1 and was aimed at reducing rising noise in the booming city of 20 million people and an ever-increasing number of cars.

Drivers of cars and motorcycles may no long lay on their horns within Shanghai's Outer Ring Road and may not sound off at night outside the Outer Ring Road.

If they do, car operators face fines up to 200 yuan (26 dollars) and motorcyclists up to 50 yuan.

It is not stopping drivers and car owners from getting creative though.
Chinese newspapers report that one taxi driver has converted his to a recording of a woman's voice saying, "Please mind the car, we are making a turn." Another is taking preventative measures to ensure he doesn't get slapped with a fine by posting a large note on his horn that says, "Don't press the button."
Police said, however, a horn is a horn and drivers face a fine no matter if their horn plays a song or talks.

Chinese car ownership levels are growing rapidly, driven by the rapidly increasing middle class. The car's symbol of freedom and status is rapidly changing in one of the most heavily populated countries in the world, and along with it carries a hefty price: badly congested streets and rising carbon dioxide emissions.

Ted Conover, in an eye-opening piece in his recent article in New York Times, examines the explosion of roads in China and the country's newfound love of cars and driving ("Capitalist Roaders"). According to Conover, China's miles of highway total at least 23,000, more than double what existed in 2001, and second now only to the United States.

The explosion of figures continues as Conover further explains that the number of passenger cars on the road has leaped from about 6 million in 2000 to about 20 million today. "Car sales are also up 54 percent in the first three months of 2006, compared with the same period a year ago [latest figures out today]; every day, 1,000 new cars (and 500 used ones) are sold in Beijing. ... [And in 2002, the last time for which data is available] China, with 2.6 percent of the world's vehicles, had 21 percent of its road fatalities," Conover said.

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