The Chinese are circumnavigating traffic laws in modified mobility scooters which are based on the designs of BMWs and Jaguars and can reach speeds of up to 60mph.
Demand for mobility vehicles has been growing with China’s elderly seeking more independence as many of China’s younger generation are failing to adopt the traditional role as carers for their parents. Instead of waiting for a son or daughter to take them out for a shopping trip, many elderly have found their freedom through these modified mobility scooters.
The traditional mobility scooter has changed dramatically in recent years in China. Traditional one-or two-seater ‘open top’ models, which move at the speed of a golf buggy, are now being replaced by the latest sporty Audi or Mini Cooper models.
Being a car owner in China is fraught with problems as cities often demand motorists apply for a limited number of registration plates as a way of reducing the number of vehicles on the country’s heavily congested roads. Mobility vehicles are not required to be registered under Chinese motoring laws, and drivers are not required to hold licenses. The vehicles therefore operate in a legal grey area, giving drivers the opportunity to flout traffic laws.
Beijing Television (BTV) carried an undercover report earlier this month highlighting how these sporty mobility scooters are often seen jumping red lights as the authorities cannot identify who owns them. A reporter pointed out: “The reason why they fear nothing and violate traffic laws is they don’t have car plates on them.” An elderly driver who was filmed with a hidden camera was quoted as saying: “Traffic police officers don’t care. I just jumped some red lights. I don’t need to follow normal traffic restriction rules.”
The Beijing News, which surveyed 20 locations around Beijing for more than six weeks, also described how it observed elderly drivers jumping lights, driving on motorways and driving the wrong way down roads. Zhang Jianguo, a 72-year-old from Beijing who has owned a mobility vehicle for five years, told the newspaper: “I am so happy driving it. I don’t need to have a driving license. I don’t need a registration plate. No traffic police officers can stop me, and even if I jumped a red light, no one cares.”
The Beijing News has revealed that numerous manufacturers in the eastern province of Shandong are making the new style mobility vehicles, which can cover distances of up to 200 kilometres (124 miles) and cost between 15,000 to 35,000 yuan (£1,715-£4,000). The vehicles can reach speeds of up to 60kph (37 mph), but models powered by fuel can reach 100 kph (60mph), a sales manager at one of the manufacturers said.
Statistics from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV indicate 136 people were killed and 858 injured in accidents involving elderly mobility scooters in Beijing between 2011 to October 2013.