This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Road Kill in China

Life is a fragile thing to begin with. You only have to look at infant, child, and maternal mortality rates to get a feel for that. But we as humans figure out an amazingly large number of ways to kill ourselves deliberately or accidentally. One of the more silent killers is road deaths. The World Bank published a report on this type of "other non-communicable causes of death" a couple of years ago, focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, where traffic deaths are especially prevalent. This is due to bad roads, old cars, poor driving, and too much congestion amongst pedestrians, cycles, and cars. The Washington Post also did a story on this last year:
It has a global death toll of 1.24 million per year and is on course to triple to 3.6 million per year by 2030. 
In the developing world, it will become the fifth leading cause of death, leapfrogging past HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other familiar killers, according to the most recent Global Burden of Disease study.
The victims tend to be poor, young and male.
In one country — Indonesia — the toll is now nearly 120 dead per day; in Nigeria, it is claiming 140 lives each day. 
This global killer is our most necessary accessory, the essential thing that gets us from here to there: the motorized vehicle. 
But the most amazing story along these lines came from Slate just a few days ago as they explained why drivers in China intentionally kill the pedestrians they hit.
It seems like a crazy urban legend: In China, drivers who have injured pedestrians will sometimes then try to kill them. And yet not only is it true, it’s fairly common; security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forth on top of victims to make sure that they are dead. The Chinese language even has an adage for the phenomenon: “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.”
Most people agree that the hit-to-kill phenomenon stems at least in part from perverse laws on victim compensation. In China the compensation for killing a victim in a traffic accident is relatively small—amounts typically range from $30,000 to $50,000—and once payment is made, the matter is over. By contrast, paying for lifetime care for a disabled survivor can run into the millions. The Chinese press recently described how one disabled man received about $400,000 for the first 23 years of his care. Drivers who decide to hit-and-kill do so because killing is far more economical. Indeed, Zhao Xiao Cheng—the man caught on a security camera video driving over a grandmother five times—ended up paying only about $70,000 in compensation.
This IS genuinely crazy--you couldn't make this up. 

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