Number of Drivers in China Now Rivals Entire US Population

Dec 01, 2014 11:16 AM EST | Jordan Ecarma

China has passed 300 million licensed drivers, a figure that compares with the entire U.S. population of around 319 million people.

The country has added 100 million new drivers in just four years, but despite the jump, two out of three adults in China still don't have their licenses, Bloomberg News reported.

As major cities including Beijing become choked with smog, having more drivers means more cars on the road and even more pressure on infrastructures that are already taxed.

"Congestion is already pretty bad, especially in tier-one cities," said Lin Huaibin, a Shanghai-based analyst at IHS Automotive, as quoted by Bloomberg. "The government is already trying to tackle pollution issues."

Thirty-five of China's cities have more than a million vehicles on their roads; Beijing and Shenzhen each have around twice that many. Some major cities have placed limits on the number of new vehicles that can be purchased in an effort to staunch emissions.

The state-funded China Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicts that about 23 million new cars will be sold in the country this year.

Devastating air pollution in China has been linked to everything from a 2.5-percent drop in tourism last year to more than 1.2 million premature deaths, according to a report by The Atlantic.

While smog continues to be an issue, major traffic incidents have decreased even with a greater number of drivers on the road. The Chinese public security ministry says that fatalities caused by speeding collisions have fallen 36 percent in the past two years and deaths from drunk driving have decreased 39 percent.

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