Q&A: Chinese Customers Keep Crashing Our Rental Cars, What Should We Do?

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 11:57

“Here is something I'd love to hear your thoughts about: Our company offers car rental services and a good chunk of our customers are Chinese. That's great, we even have a Chinese language version of the website, we accept Alipay and Tenpay and so on.

But there's a problem: Chinese customers are involved in many more accidents than other nationalities that rent from us. The numbers are very clear. So, what can we do about it? We don't want to discriminate, so we would hate to adjust our terms/prices based on customer's country of origin. But there must be something we can do.

So first, we thought about the reasons why Chinese customers have more accidents. Two theories came up in our research:

  1. Traffic in China is different (duh!).
  2. It might be that due to the destination we serve, we only get relatively rich Chinese customers; those customers may not drive themselves in their home country too often, they are mostly driven by other people.

So, we thought we could create a little leaflet written in Mandarin about how traffic is different in our country compared to China. We also thought about spicing it up with some pictures of actual accidents that happened because of tourists not adjusting to the local traffic. We know that this is a sensitive matter and we don't want to piss people off.

Funny story: we asked our translator what she thought about this idea and she said the threat of losing their own life might not be as effective as telling them they might go to jail for bad driving. Sounds like a weird logic to me :-)”


Answer from Tait:

An educational leaflet could help, that's a great idea. I'd advise creating it in Mandarin and English and/or other relevant languages though, for two reasons:

First, if the educational material is only created in Mandarin, it risks generating a backlash. Some people will perceive it as being racist against Chinese people.

If you create the leaflet it in multiple languages, it just looks like information you're providing for everybody, without the risk of it being perceived as racist.

Plus, there’s another reason to use more than one language. It might reduce overall accidents. The cost of using a few languages for a simple leaflet isn’t very high anyway. In fact, if I travelled to your country, I’d want to see that leaflet too. Even if the laws were similar to Canada, it would make me feel more comfortable to know for sure.

I think it’s best to focus on the legal aspects of breaking the laws of the road too. Humans don’t really think that a major accident might happen to them – if they did, we wouldn’t need police to enforce the rules of the road, right? Humans are actually quite terrible at evaluating modern-day threats to the lives.

Traffic laws vary even city-to-city. If a friend from Vancouver visits Edmonton, I explain to them “you can’t drive more than 5 km over the limit here, there’s photo radar everywhere and you can easily rack up $500 in fines in a week if you drive too fast.” That’s a very matter-of-fact explanation for a conversation between two people of the same culture. That same kind of matter-of-fact explanation can work cross-culturally though too.

The leaflet should be like: “Hey, you need to learn how to drive in our country. If not, you’ll be slapped with some fines for sure. Here are the things you need to know…”




Driving in China is fundamentally different than in the US and Europe. Simply stated, in the West there is much more respect for the car that has the right of way. We wait until there are no cars coming before we pull out into traffic. In China it is the opposite, drivers go if there is space and the oncoming traffic slow down or stops so as to avoid hitting them. The sensation of being in a Chinese taxi in Beijing is that if one drove like that in Los Angeles you would be hit all of the time, mainly because nobody expects a car to pull in front of a car in the right of way. You are also surprised that nobody gets angry. You would likely have people very angry with you in the US as driving like this is seen as very aggressive, dangerous, and irresponsible. I would advise Chinese people not to drive in the US until they have learned the system here as it is really really dangerous to drive that way here.

that being said it works fine in China because EVERYONE drives according to that system. In fact I would bet there are less accidents in China than in the US because everyone drives so defensively.

I agree. I think about it every time when I'm in a cab in China and I watch them drive. However, I don't think I'd survive driving in China - and Chinese drivers have to learn to adhere to rules in other countries before they drive there. And that's the problem I guess.

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