It seems like a crazy urban legend: In China, drivers who have injured pedestrians will sometimes then try to kill them. And yet not only is it true, it’s fairly common; security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forth on top of victims to make sure that they are dead. The Chinese language even has an adage for the phenomenon: “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.”
Most people agree that the hit-to-kill phenomenon stems at least in part from perverse laws on victim compensation. In China the compensation for killing a victim in a traffic accident is relatively small—amounts typically range from $30,000 to $50,000—and once payment is made, the matter is over.
In 2010 in Xinyi, video captured a wealthy young man reversing his BMW X6 out of a parking spot. He hits a 3-year-old boy, knocking the child to the ground and rolling over his skull. The driver then shifts his BMW into drive and crushes the child again. Remarkably, the driver then gets out of the BMW, puts the vehicle in reverse, and guides it with his hand as he walks the vehicle backward over the boy’s crumpled body. The man’s foot is so close to the toddler’s head that, if alive, the boy could have reached out and touched him. The driver then puts the BMW in drive again, running over the boy one last time as he drives away.
Here too, the driver was charged only with accidentally causing a person’s death. (He claimed to have confused the boy with a cardboard box or trash bag.) Police rejected charges of murder and even of fleeing the scene of the crime, ignoring the fact that the driver ran over the boy’s head as he sped away.