Speed up in helping delivery drivers slow down

Wan Lixin
In light of the high incidence of traffic accidents involving delivery drivers, the companies should disincentivize drivers from engaging in unsafe behavior.
Wan Lixin

On the morning of September 5, a first-year graduate student at the University of International Business and Economics was struck by an express delivery truck on campus. The girl suffered multiple fractures and died over 10 hours later at a nearby hospital.

When my wife first mentioned this accident to me a couple of days ago, her attention was drawn to this tragic story of a young girl from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the northwest, whose promising educational journey was cut short just three days after arriving on campus.

The campus is generally perceived to be pedestrian-friendly; a place where a driver reversing a truck is expected to proceed with the utmost caution.

I was also drawn to the fact that this accident involved an express delivery company.

Delivery drivers are not known for their respect for traffic rules and regulations, with some drivers routinely riding on sidewalks or in motor vehicle lanes, running red lights, or cutting through traffic lanes at will.

In one extreme case, a deliveryman in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, was involved in 12 traffic accidents in three months.

The sheer number is astonishing, and it is surprising to think that whatever punishments had been administered for the previous violations apparently did not deter this driver from committing subsequent traffic offenses in this Suzhou case. The local traffic regulatory authority should really reflect upon why they failed to intervene effectively.

At face value, regulation should not be too difficult.

The current standards stipulate that scooters should drive at a maximum of 25 km/hour and weigh no more than 55 kilograms. In reality, some scooters drive in excess of 40km/hour and weigh more than 70kg.

If the traffic department conducted a survey, they would probably be surprised by the percentage of scooters on the road that exceed these limits.

Considering technological advancement, such monitoring should have been very doable.

If the traffic authority finds this too cumbersome, it could easily put the onus of supervision firmly on the delivery operators.

The most important point is to urge delivery apps to create disincentives, rather than incentives, to reckless riding, in spite of the knowledge that a successful delivery business thrives on speed. This is particularly true with food delivery apps, where delivery drivers are awarded a commission for deliveries made on time and penalized for late deliveries.

According to statistics in Shanghai, from 2020 to February 2021, there were 423 accidents in the city involving parcel and food delivery businesses, causing seven deaths and 347 injuries.

Among the 117 traffic accidents involving delivery drivers in Shanghai in 2017, the number of riders representing the top two food delivery apps far exceeded that of package delivery services.

And unless it is driven home to those companies that that non-compliance with traffic regulations could be significantly more expensive than compliance, they will have little motivation to change.

Even in the absence of accidents, we should not underestimate reckless scooter drivers' impact on pedestrians.

They are guilty of, for instance, frightening pedestrians by zipping by without warning or honking threateningly.

They are always a nuisance at close contact.

In my neighborhood, delivery drivers can be spotted rushing to and fro constantly, particularly in the evening, when they rush with meal orders in all directions.

Online businesses are certainly changing the urban landscape, and it is high time they slowed down.

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