It sounds like a bad urban legend, but apparently it isn’t: in China, there are recorded instances of a driver striking a pedestrian, then backing up to run over the fallen victim again and again to make sure they are dead. In two of the more appalling cases, drivers ran over a little girl, and a grandmother, multiple times.
Why? Because the tort and criminal system in China provides a financial incentive to make sure that the victim of a hit-skip incident is dead. The one-time compensation to be paid to the family of a deceased victim typically ranges between $30,000 and $50,000. If the victim is seriously injured and requires ongoing care, however, the driver has to pay for the care for the rest of the victim’s lifetime — which obviously could run into considerably larger sums.
Hence, the death driver scenario. In the split-second after an accident, Chinese drivers have to decide between their pocketbook and their humanity and decency — and for a number of drivers, the pocketbook wins out.
It’s discouraging to think that money could turn a distressingly large percentage of drivers into cold-blooded killers, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The historical record consistently demonstrates that people respond to economic incentives and disincentives — just ask anyone who lived in the old Soviet Union. The Chinese death driver example simply shows how far economic incentives can go in influencing decision-making and behavior. It isn’t a pretty picture.