Hospital workers attend to a person injured in a coach-truck collision accident in Hengdong County, central China's Hunan Province. Picture: Xiao Yahui/Xinhua via AP

Beijing — The death toll in a head-on collision between a passenger coach and a truck on a highway in central China has risen to 18, with another 14 people injured, police said Saturday.

The accident took place Friday evening in Hunan province south of the capital Beijing. Footage from the scene showed both heavily damaged vehicles along the rain-slicked highway. It appeared that one of the vehicles may have crossed a centre divider.

Speeding, dangerous passing, poorly maintained vehicles and fatigued drivers are most often the cause of serious traffic accidents in China. Friday's disaster appeared to be one of the worst in recent months.

Despite vast improvements in safety, the World Health Organization says about 260,000 Chinese die each year in traffic accidents, many of them pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcycle riders. Long-distance coach buses are a cheaper alternative to high-speed trains or planes for the vast majority of working-class Chinese travelling around the vast country.

AP