Magic' number plates save speeding Chinese drivers
* Tania Branigan
* Tuesday May 6 2008
About this article
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Tuesday May 06 2008. It was last updated at 17:41 on May 06 2008.
It's the kind of invention that would make Q proud. But unlike James Bond, Chinese drivers are using technology to save their pockets rather than their country.
Speeding motorists in the south are escaping fines thanks to machines that switch the numbers on their licence plates within seconds, state media claimed today.
"More than 50% of cars caught on camera for speeding and other offences either cover up their plates or use a fake licence plate," a traffic policeman in the Yangjiang, Guangdong province told Beijing Youth Daily. "Our chances of capturing them is next to nil."
The newspaper said that a basic remote-control device cost from 800 yuan (£58), while an advanced version that took less than three seconds to change numbers cost around double that.
"The era of covering up the licence plate by hand has passed," a driver surnamed Zheng said.
A salesman from Guangzhou, Guangdong's capital, described his devices as "really convenient and economical too".
Last month, the state news agency Xinhua reported that China had confiscated thousands of fake military vehicles and number plates in a crackdown on citizens masquerading as members of the People's Liberation Army. "Police officers are reluctant to pull over drivers of military vehicles even if the drivers are breaking the law," it said.