Do not assume that Chinese drivers will follow any rule you know.

Chinese drivers in general are very dangerous and drive in a highly illogical way. They adopt a highly offensive and ignorant driving style.

Tips for the driving Dangers:

However, this is no place for being angry for being cut off, if someone drives against the red light or on the wrong side of the road. You simply yield, and carry on as if nothing had happened because there is just too many to fight with. It is not uncommon to see cars drive on the sidewalk (at speed). About 100,000 deaths are caused by car accidents in China each year. This fatality rate is more than twice the fatality rate in the United States even though in 2005 there are only about 32 million civilian-owned cars in China in comparison with the 136 million passenger cars in the United States.

The statistics above is misleading, however, given the larger population in China, so please take the statistics with a grain of salt.

Every car driver has a "body language" which predicts what they will do next. It is essential to learn this "body language" and drive by it. If you are driving down a four lane road, and the lane in front of the taxi to the right of you and slightly ahead of you is blocked, your lane ahead is free, immediately assume the taxi will move left into your lane without any warning. There is no way to predict or learn the "body language" but it's fun to pretend you understand.

At traffic circles (roundabouts, drivers hate going around the island in the middle if they can avoid it, traffic ignores one-way rights, bicycles have no reflectors, and so on.


Right of way
The concept of right-of-way does not apply.

Cars do not stop for pedestrians, only swerve around them or honk at them to clear the way. Motorcycles and bicycles often do the same on sidewalks. Wide white bars, which a naive visitor might take for pedestrian crosswalks, are sometimes painted on roads. These have absolutely no effect on car or motorcycle traffic.

Making a left turn in front of oncoming vehicles is quite normal. Those vehicles will not stop. They will just swerve around you, even if this means going across the center line and forcing whatever is behind you to swerve around them.

As near as this befuddled foreigner can tell, the only general rule is keep moving no matter what. Cutting people off, swerving into the oncoming lane, driving on the shoulder, or the wrong way down a divided highway, are all fine as long as they keep you moving in the right general direction.

As an extreme example, consider the driver making a left turn onto a busy street from a minor one. Elsewhere, there might be a stop sign — not in China. Suppose traffic coming from his left is too heavy to allow the turn. Does he wait for an opening? Not a Chinese driver! He turns left immediately and drives the wrong way down the shoulder until he can move right and merge with traffic going his way.

We who drive daily in China (Chongqing in this case) often say, given a more pragmatic view of driving in China, there are only two rules you must obey, both equally important. Don't hit anything, and don't get hit by anything.


Indication lights
Few drivers bother with switching on the indication lights when they are changing lanes. Some drivers honk when switching lanes. Many will not look to see if the lane is clear before changing lanes; cars behind them will swerve or stop to avoid them.


Overtaking on the right
This, despite being illegal, is very common in China.


Lights on!
Lorry drivers may not bother with switching on lights during the night. You should. Switch on your headlamps -- all lights on, in fact, if there is no other vehicle approaching you. Please be aware in doing this, if the local police catches you in a vehicle with lights on during daytime, you will be fined.

Few Chinese drivers seem to know about dimming their headlights for approaching cars. Except on some freeways, driving at night is unpleasant and dangerous. Avoid it if at all possible.

When driving at night, be very aware that people often walk in the middle of the road, with the back to the oncoming traffic, in dark clothes. This is one reason local drivers do not often dip the lights. In the country, there may even be people sleeping on the road.


Newbies are often marked with the label ??, but their driving quality varies from acceptable to deplorable. Stay away from them if you can -- they are often overwhelmed by the traffic too! Bottom line is don't drive in China, hire someone.