Elderly Chinese cause havoc on mobility scooters, flouting traffic rules

Souped up mobility scooters such as this 'Land Rover' are proving popular with elderly Chinese. Photo / Supplied
Souped up mobility scooters such as this 'Land Rover' are proving popular with elderly Chinese. Photo / Supplied

Elderly Chinese have been causing alarm on the country's roads by flouting traffic laws in souped-up mobility scooters which are based on the designs of BMWs and Jaguars and can reach speeds of up to 100km/h.

The owners of the high performance vehicles are jumping red lights and even driving on motorways and the wrong way down roads, local media said.

Demand for mobility vehicles has been surging with the country's elderly seeking more independence as many of China's younger generation walk away from their traditional role as carers for their parents.

Instead of waiting for a son or daughter to take them out for a day shopping or sight-seeing, many elderly have turned to their own sleek, modern-looking vehicles.

Mobility scooters are a common sight in China, but their appearance has changed dramatically in recent years.

Traditional one-or two-seater 'open top' models, which trundle at the side of road at the speed of a golf buggy, appear to be giving way to new designs, some of which are based on the latest sporty Audi or Mini Cooper models.

Becoming an official car owner is a major headache in China as cities often ask motorists to apply for a limited number of registration plates as a means of cutting the amount of vehicles on the country's heavily congested roads.

The mobility vehicles do not need 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 they are often seen jumping red lights as the authorities cannot identify who owns them.

"The reason why they fear nothing and violate traffic laws is they don't have car plates on them," said a reporter.

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 monitored 20 locations around the Chinese capital for more than six weeks - also detailed how it spotted 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 newspaper said scores of 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.

However, state broadcaster CCTV said 136 people were killed and 858 injured in accidents involving elderly mobility scooters in Beijing between 2011 to October 2013.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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