talk back

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 October, 2004, 12:00am

Q Should the penalty points for jumping a red light be increased?

J. Wilson (Talkback, October 29) does not appear to have noticed that between the red and green traffic lights there is an amber light. I do not know whether digital read-outs of the time left before the lights will change decrease instances of jumping lights, but I doubt it. Their absence is not, and should not be seen as, the slightest excuse for jumping red lights. When the lights change from green to amber the decision should be made according to whether or not you can stop, not according to whether you can 'make it'.

Drivers jump lights for one (or both) of two reasons. Firstly, they think that they can 'make it' and are unlikely to get caught. This is taken to extremes at roadworks that reduce the road to a single lane controlled by lights, and waiting drivers cannot do anything other than wait and report the offenders, many of whom do not even have the decency to look guilty. More should be done to catch these drivers.

Secondly, they are not fully concentrating and/or they have not developed a proper technique for approaching traffic lights (probably, in all fairness to them, because they have never been taught properly) and so, when they become aware that the lights have changed, they experience up to a second or more of indecision (a long time when driving), by which time it is both too late to stop and dangerous to continue.

The importance of full concentration on driving is a topic that is far from adequately stressed. Even a simple conversation with a passenger, or listening to an interesting programme on the radio can compromise concentration on driving. I constantly tell my wife never to tell me, or ask me, anything important when I'm driving, because I frequently cut myself off from every other consideration when road and traffic conditions demand.

Further, while it is generally considered polite to look at the person to whom you are talking, when you are driving it can be deadly.

At traffic lights, my technique is to imagine a line across the road, at a distance in front of the stop line at the lights, which just gives me time to stop gently without having to brake harshly. If the lights change to amber before the imaginary line is crossed, I stop. Otherwise, I continue, though always looking out for over-zealous amber anticipators. This technique removes that moment of indecision.

It goes without saying, or should, that it is essential to observe the relevant speed limit. But a word of warning: before adopting this technique, perfect your judgment of speeds and relevant stopping distances in a large, empty car park, or on a quiet road.

Peter Robertson, Sai Kung

The existing penalty is not tough enough to prevent drivers from speeding and jumping a red light. To minibus drivers, it is not a sufficient deterrent.

Therefore, an increase in penalty points is essential. Many people have no choice apart from taking minibuses, yet some minibus drivers are not responsible and risk passengers' safety. These drivers should not be allowed to drive. I think tougher penalities would definitely have public support.

Henry Wong Chuan-tao, Tuen Mun

Q Should smoking be banned in restaurants and bars?

Reader Esther Morris' response (Talkback, October 28) to my letter seems to miss my original point, which was that the banning of smoking in bars is ludicrous.

I am a considerate smoker. I do not smoke in restaurants, malls, my office or any enclosed public environments except bars, where it is allowed. Let the bar owners decide, as they know their clientele better than anyone and would know whether a smoking ban would be good for their business or not.

The Dublin Jack has exercised its right and decided to ban smoking. It was its choice; let all other bars take the same course if they wish. Our local bars are not frequented by tourists, not because people smoke there but because tourists don't come to this area. It is locals who use them, and it is not for people living on Hong Kong Island to dictate to these people what they can and cannot do.

Not all smokers are addicts, in the same way that not all the people who drink alcohol are alcoholics. There are some out there who actually enjoy smoking in the same way there are some who may be addicted and cannot stop. Don't categorise people who smoke under one blanket.

As for Ms Morris' statement regarding individuals rarely having the knowledge and skills that would allow them to make rational and informed choices, she would appear to be one of these, purely by making such a statement in the first place. People in general have to make choices and decisions every day and on the whole seem to get by okay.

Neil Keen, Fanling

Q Should passengers be banned from bargaining over taxi fares?

It is difficult enough for taxi drivers to make a living nowadays. If you want to save money, take a bus or other form of transport instead.

Steven Ting, To Kwa Wan

On other matters ...

The Chung Yeung Festival weekend has come and gone and the hills were ablaze once more. The grave worshippers have tended their dead and left a trail of destruction behind them.

When will this government take severe issue with a custom which devastates our countryside and endangers lives?

J. Green, Lantau