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  1. Barry Pless
  1. Correspondence to Barry Pless, Retired, 434 Lansdowne, Westmount, Quebec H3Y2V2, Canada; barry.pless{at}mcgill.ca

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From China: new approaches to bad driving

In China, road crashes are now the leading cause of death in the 15–44 age group. This prompted Dr Jin Huiqing to study ‘accident proneness’ and to develop a road safety program that he sells to Chinese municipalities. Huiqing used driving records, neurological tests and blood samples in research designed to identify the physical or psychological traits of poor drivers, such as risk-taking or poor response time under stress. His company's three-pronged safety program involves this battery of tests to screen drivers, training with simulators and surveillance cameras.

Based on these measures, Huiqing estimates that about 7% of Chinese motorists are ‘accident prone’. When compared with safe drivers, they have worse scores on tests of night vision, depth perception and ability to estimate speed. They also tend to be more extroverted and enjoy taking risks. From DNA samples of about 350 bus drivers, Jin claims to have found three genes with ‘potential links to accident prone driving’. Those whose results indicate that they are predisposed to causing crashes are advised on corrective actions, and the driver's employer also receives the recommendations. The city of Jinan adopted the system, and police say traffic deaths have fallen by one third in the past 5 years.

From the small research institute he set up in 1990, Huiqing now runs a company with 2000 employees that earns more than US$4 million a year.

Editor's note Most Western researchers have long since dismissed the notion of accident proneness because it has not been proven and does not lend itself to any reasonable preventive action; nevertheless, I found this report sent by David Sleet intriguing for two reasons: first, although it seems distasteful to make a profit out …

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