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Photo: Peter Bilak

Seat Belt Hacks — China

by Jonah Goodman

Seat belts have been mandatory in Chinese cars since 2004, but over a decade later, many drivers and most passengers in the world’s biggest auto market still refuse to wear them, despite point penalties and ¥50 (€7 or US$8) fines. Drivers say that seat belts can get sweaty in a car without air conditioning, and according to a 2010 study in Nanjing and Zhoushan, people dislike the inconvenience of fastening and unfastening the strap. Whatever their reasons, drivers go to ingenious lengths to avoid the regulation. A clip that went viral in July 2013 showed a man stopped by police for wearing a black satchel with a wide strap resembling a belt while sitting on top of the real seat belt, which was fastened to keep the car’s safety buzzers quiet. T-shirts with seat belts printed on them can be bought online, but more widespread are beltless buckles which trick the car into thinking the occupants are safe. They come in designs ranging from Disney characters to sports cars, the beer-opener buckle perhaps the most unnerving of them.

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