Sat, May 19, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Millions of ghost scooters haunt the streets of Taiwan

By Tseng Hung-ju  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ministry of Transportation and Communications figures show that the number of motor vehicles in the country exceeded 20 million for the first time last May, a number possibly including more than 3 million abandoned "ghost scooters" nationwide.

The ministry estimated that the total number of vehicles on the nation's roads likely reached 20.3 million at the end of last year. Scooters and motorcycles comprise approximately two-thirds of the nation's vehicles.

The three areas with the most vehicles are Taipei County, Taipei City and Kaohsiung City -- in that order -- which together account for about one-third of all Taiwanese vehicles, statistics showed.

Taiwan also has a surprising number of issued driver's licenses, with the ministry estimating there are 22.8 million registered drivers nationwide. Officials said this was possible because of a growing trend of people carrying multiple licenses.

Ghost vehicles are a growing problem. Based on vehicle use surveys from 2005, the ministry now estimates that only about 11.1 million of more than 13 million scooters nationwide are in use.

The number of ghost scooters -- most of which have been stolen or abandoned -- is difficult to ascertain because it has been more than 12 years since Taiwan required all vehicles to switch to new license plates.

When Taiwan switched license plates in 1995, the owners of only about 65 percent, or less than 8 million, of the more than 12 million registered scooters at that time applied for new plates, indicating that the remaining vehicles were no longer being used.

Based on this experience, officials say that as many as 3 million to 4 million of the current registrations may be for scooters that are no longer used. The actual number will only be known after new anti-counterfeiting license plates are issued next year.

Ministry officials warn that owners may be fined for abandoning a scooter or motorcycle rather than filing the appropriate paperwork.

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