Traffic police see an increase in cases of seriously overloaded vehicles during the summer vacation when children travel to see their parents who are working in other areas of the country, the traffic management bureau has said.
Authorities counted 111 people traveling on a 39-berth sleeper coach from Changde, Hunan province, when it was intercepted in Changsha on Wednesday.
The Changsha Traffic Police Bureau said about three passengers occupied each berth and more people were sitting in the aisle.
"Of the passengers squeezed on this bus, 22 are left-behind children. When their summer holiday began in July, they were escorted by their grandparents (onto the bus) to meet up with their parents, who are working in Guangdong province where this coach was heading," said Xiao Qiang, a publicity official for the traffic police bureau.
Most of the adult passengers were traveling to Guangdong to find jobs.
"Overloading will always bring high risks, but especially in a severe situation such as this with more than twice as many passengers as the registered number," Xiao said.
The passengers were transferred onto different buses and continued their journey on Wednesday night.
The bus driver faces a penalties that could include a 2,000 yuan ($315) fine and having his bus temporarily detained.
"Overloading has become routine during the holidays, especially summer vacation, because lots of left-behind children go to visit their parents. So we have given lectures to students on traffic safety and will make a greater effort to stop overloaded buses," Xiao said.
In this incident, a passenger reported the overcrowding to traffic police by posting on the authority's micro blog.
"It's an efficient way to receive reports. It's convenient for them. We'll keep a close eye on online reports," Xiao said.
"We also have strict procedures to verify online reports, such as attaching pictures of the vehicle. If the report proves true, we will take immediate action to stop the overloaded vehicle."
Authorities have been alerted to more than five major overloading cases in Changsha by online reports since last year.
Cities including Wuhan and Guangzhou also encourage people to report overloading through the local traffic police's official micro blog.
Overloading cases involving children have been discovered many times in recent days, prompting safety concerns.
A passenger bus was found to be carrying 95 people, 53 more than its registered number in Huizhou, Guangdong province, on Monday. Thirty-seven of the passengers were children.
On Wednesday in Fuyang, Anhui province, a bus with 55 seats was caught with 94 passengers on board, and 39 were children.
Huang Wenqin, 22, from Wuhan, Hubei province, said she was traveling on a bus on Wednesday morning when she asked the driver not to pick up any more passengers because the seats were fully occupied but she received no answer.
"Many of the kids huddled in the arms of their mothers who were sitting in the aisle of the bus for four hours," she said. "It couldn't have been comfortable.
"It reminded me of a traffic accident where eight people died because of overloading, so I prayed all the way," she said.
Xiao Nangying, a worker in Changsha, said she had traveled in several overloaded vehicles. "Buses running between small cities will usually pick up more people because of the limited vehicles making the trip every day," she said.
Xiao Nangying said she has never asked the driver to turn away the extra people. "I can understand their urgent desire to meet their parents, who may be away from home for months. If they want to make vehicles follow rules the local governments should invest more in public transportation, like adding buses."
The Ministry of Education issued a circular on Wednesday to remind students to pay more attention to personal safety during the two-month summer vacation.
The circular warned local governments and schools to refrain from concealing accidents, adding that local governments and schools whose actions result in major accidents or who improperly handle emergencies will be severely punished.