Driving standards

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am

Any official attempt to cut down on the spate of traffic accidents is worth a try. But, however well meaning, the scheme being introduced by the combined forces of the police and the traffic department sounds more like a public relations exercise than a genuine attempt to improve driving skills among commercial vehicle drivers.

The system will not work unless it comes with incentives which make it worth the effort to enrol. Few drivers are likely to be attracted by the prospect of sitting at a desk being lectured on the highway code, particularly if there is little personal advantage to be gained at the end of it. The attitude of the transport unions to the voluntary scheme is predictable, but perhaps a little smug.

Driving in Hong Kong is not impressive. The rules of the road are broken at every junction as drivers cut in, and swap from inside to outside lanes regardless of the oncoming traffic, and apparently oblivious of their own safety, as well as that of other travellers.

Traffic police follow set routines which centre on regular checks for speeding, but there is no attempt to caution drivers who break elementary road rules. Perhaps if tickets were handed out to those who flout the Highway Code, there would be less reason to complain that drivers pay no attention to it.

Bad manners behind the wheel are almost as dangerous as excessive speed, but it has become an accepted part of modern life, with so-called 'road rage' incidents now occurring in Hong Kong. A good deal could be done to improve road skills if there was a system whereby drivers could gain qualifications that earned them tangible long-term benefits - lower premiums on motoring insurance, for example. In countries where this type of scheme is on offer, there is a certain amount of kudos involved in coming through the course, because of the high level of skill required.

Participants are taken out on the highway and required to demonstrate control of their vehicle under a variety of difficult road conditions. It isn't easy to pass, so those who do get through gain considerable face as well as enhancing their job prospects. If a similar system were set up here, and offered to all drivers, it might prove the answer to our present dismal record of crashes and deaths on the road.