Are Chinese People Bad Drivers?

Word of the week jià shǐ

My American friends tell me that in the USA Chinese people have a reputation for being bad drivers. I don’t know how Chinese people drive in America and I can’t speak about the whole of China (it’s a big place!). However, I recently bought a car in Hangzhou and I can certainly say that the way people drive here is very… different to how people drive in Britain.

new carmy new car

The word for car is 车 chē but there is no specific verb for “drive” the verb is 开 kāi is used instead. You need to use them together (开车 kāi chē) you can’t just say the verb on its own, like “I’ll drive there”. You have to say 我开车去 wǒ kāi chē qù.

If you want to kāi chē in China then you need a 驾驶证 jià shǐ zhèng (driving license) 证 zhèng means “license” and 驾驶 jià shǐ means “drive”. And yes I did just lie to you a bit, because there is a word for “drive” on its own. (驾驶 jià shǐ) but this word is usually only used in quite formal or written Chinese.

jiuhoukaicheafter drinking don’t drive

The word 驾驶 jià shǐ might also crop up in unusual places. Like the dirty stairwell of my apartment building where I saw the following advert stuck:

licesne points ad

This sticker says 收驾驶证分 shōu jià shǐ zhèng fēn (receive driving license points) 处理汽车违章 chǔ lǐ qì chē wéi zhāng (handle vehicle rule breaking)

This might need a bit of explaining. Basically, in China you don’t get points on your jià shǐ zhèng (license) if you are caught speeding or breaking other traffic rules. You get points when you pay the fine. That means whoever goes to the police station to pay the fine will have the points on their jià shǐ zhèng regardless of whether they were the person driving the car.

Rich people who don’t want to lose their jià shǐ zhèng can therefore pay a lot of money for someone else to go to the police station and pay the fine for them. It seems crazy that such a blatant loophole in the law can exist.

So are Chinese people bad drivers? All I can say is that if a Chinese person is rich enough they can get away with being a very bad driver without any risk of losing their license.