High technology will not eliminate China’s jaywalkers
Electronic police are not “RoboCops,” but rather a new video surveillance system in China that can automatically detect and record lawbreaking vehicles and pedestrians. As long as a car or a person is in the field of vision of a surveillance camera, any violation of traffic laws will be recorded and the driver can be held accountable.
To avoid being punished, most drivers in China have become more law-abiding in recent years under these smart eyes, which have helped build better traffic order in Chinese cities. The latest e-police system has been updated to capture the images of jaywalkers, who can be identified using portrait recognition software.
There is one such surveillance system just a block away from my home here in Shanghai, which is currently in trial operations. Several cameras are aimed at the crosswalk and a large 2-meterhigh screen publicly exposes the jaywalkers.
I once stood there observing the system for over an hour.
I found that people who are aware of the equipment and care about being exposed on a public screen tend to behave themselves, while those who couldn’t care less just ignore it and go about their jaywalking.
The question being raised about this new type of high technology is, can jaywalking really be eliminated by embarrassing people? I think the majority of jaywalkers are people who enjoy taking risks and acting selfishly. They are not afraid of being hit by a car, and they also do not care about disturbing public order, so why would they mind having their images appear on a public screen? On the contrary, they might even like it.
Jaywalking causes many traffic accidents in China. But jaywalkers themselves are seldom caught and never seriously punished. However, I do think enacting more severe punishments will eventually change their minds about taking such chances. In Germany, jaywalkers are fined and also have their credit scores affected, which can lead to shorter loan repayment times and higher insurance expenses and loan rates.
People tend to be more law-abiding if there are consequences. For vehicles in Shanghai, for example, there is a rule that every traffic violation has a certain score, and if they add up to over 12 in one year your driver license will become invalid.
In fact, there are now fewer jaywalkers in Shanghai following years of public education. But in turn, the stubborn ones who continue jaywalking should be more strictly punished. To do this, though, rules, laws, policies and punishments should be optimized to be more humanistic. For instance, what motivates jaywalkers?
In Shanghai, the answer to this could be that pedestrians are forced to wait at some major intersections for up to several minutes, but are only allowed a few seconds to cross wide thoroughfares. Many people find this to be unfair.
In Singapore, traffic light-timers have been calculated so that pedestrians will not have to wait too long for a red light. Moreover, there are many pedestrian bridges and underground passages in Singapore, which greatly reduces traffic congestion while also solving the jaywalking problem. In the UK, sidewalks are specifically designed to prevent jaywalking; on streets with heavy traffic there are special manually operated light-control systems for pedestrians.
I believe that a better order is built by caring instead of blindly having something monitoring and punishing the public. Without strict and effective punishments and more humanized policies, China’s e-police will be little more than electronic scarecrows.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.