Belts set to cut minibus casualties by 20pc

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 12:00am

Transport chiefs are tipping a 20 per cent reduction in casualties from minibus accidents with compulsory seat belts expected to come into force next month - but it will take time.

Fewer than 100 of the city's 4,300 public light buses now have seat belts, and owners will not be required to fit belts until they buy new vehicles.

Given the replacement rate of minibuses, officials expect it will take up to eight years - the average service span of a minibus - before all the buses have belts.

From Sunday, passengers who do not wear seat belts where provided face a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment.

Senior road safety engineer Edmond Fok Wai-kit yesterday said the new rules - which also include higher padded seat backs - would make minibus travel safer, as seat belts had in private cars and taxis.

Taxi-related casualties were down 38 per cent from 1989, the last no-seat belt year.

'We believe that a 14 to 20 per cent reduction in minibus casualties' is possible, Mr Fok said.

There were 958 deaths and injuries last year.

Mr Fok said drivers could refuse to drive if a passenger did not belt up.

Pregnant women and passengers unable to wear seat belts due to health reasons could apply to the Transport Department for an exemption, he said.

But such applications must be supported by a doctor's note. The permits should also be carried at all times and be presented to police upon request.

Children under three years old who are carried by their parents and not occupying a seat will not require a seat belt.