PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2005, 12:00am

Q Is five demerit points sufficient penalty for jumping a red light?

The terrible accident that happened on Hing Fat Street (pictured) could have been avoided if both drivers had anticipated that the other might run a red light. Alas, both were bad drivers. I was upstairs in a nearby building watching when the accident happened; the scream of the mother who lost her five-year-old daughter still rings in my ears even after two years.

I have been a driver since I was 17 and now I am 48. During my younger days, I had a few traffic tickets. The main reason I got all these tickets was very simple: bad driving habits and being young and inconsiderate. I often hear young people saying how they drive fast, this being 'so cool', and bragging about tailgating.

They really think the city roads are like playing a game at a video arcade. For me, after a few tickets and heavy fines, I learned not to speed up when I saw yellow lights, and instead to stop before them. I learned to anticipate other bad drivers who go through red lights, change lanes without signalling and stop right in the middle of the road suddenly for no reason.

In California, if someone gets caught drink driving, they may have to pay at least US$6,000 to get out of jail. The result is that fewer people drive after a few beers in California.

If our society values human life, we should heavily fine drivers who break traffic laws. Five demerit points is a slap on the wrist for a bad driver. Dangerous drivers should be prosecuted and thrown into jail if they commit serious traffic offences. It is all about fostering good driving habits and, above all, responsibility.

Allan Lai, Causeway Bay

Can you name any other country in the world where potential lawbreakers negotiate in advance with the government over the penalty they will receive when they commit their crime, and where they publicly declare their intention to break the law?

Five demerit points for drivers who jump red lights are not enough, and the fine is far too small.

Just come to the corner of 'old' Clearwater Bay Road and 'new' Clearwater Bay Road. I'll bet that you'll see 75 per cent of cars coming from Choi Hung on 'new' Clearwater Bay Road driving through the red light. But as long as the traffic police do not feel obliged to go after traffic offenders in Hong Kong, the whole discussion about demerit points is redundant.

Stefan Behr-Heyder, Sai Kung

Besides reckless driving, jumping red lights is a major traffic offence. Both offences could cause deaths. Nothing short of immediate suspension and a $10,000 fine should be accepted by the government and legislators. Anything less provides dangerous drivers with more 'loaded guns'.

Those bullying minibus drivers are polluting the streets and they drive recklessly by forcing other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians off the road. They have made running red lights a habit.

How dare they complain about higher penalties causing them stress when they themselves are causing stress and injuring others? If they took time to slow down before traffic lights, they would immediately reduce their stress levels. And their adrenaline rush in trying to beat the lights every time would certainly be reduced.

Name & address supplied

Q Which tunnel options would best ease traffic?

Is a tunnel buyback the best way to solve the cross-harbour traffic problem? The simple answer is no.

Encouraging private participation has been a very successful strategy for providing public infrastructure facilities and transport services in Hong Kong since the early days.

The contribution of a free economy to our success is beyond dispute. But the idea of buying back the tunnels - for that matter, even the slightest suggestion to that effect - is a threat to our social and economic system. It is even worse if our government is pondering such a move. Safeguard our systems, please!

Are we trying to be a second Singapore? Even the government there has been privatising many of its assets. A similar policy is now prevailing on the mainland as well. Why turn the bullock cart backwards?

Buying back the tunnels will not solve the traffic problems. There are other possible solutions.

First, the government should have the political wisdom and courage to increase Cross-Harbour Tunnel tolls to a level high enough to divert the excessive flow of traffic to the other tunnels during peak hours. The government could provide subsidies to the other two tunnels through the revenue generated from such a toll increase, which would allow their tolls to be reduced and further encourage traffic diversion.

Second, it is necessary to speed up the decentralisation of traffic from Central to Wan Chai and beyond. The government's recent objection to the Mega Tower project in Wan Chai reflects its myopic approach to planning. This project would provide the growth pole effect required to attract people and businesses from overcrowded Central.

The government should make full use of the urban renewal opportunities in Wan Chai to redesign the street pattern and the traffic system to help eliminate bottlenecks. The environmental argument it has chosen to adopt will only worsen the environment and the economy in the long run.

L.H. Wang, Central

The government is doing its best once again to divert public attention from a problem in order to create the impression that the administration is doing something ('Buying up tunnels is back on the agenda', March 18).

But let's face it. A change of ownership in itself will not solve any problems - it will actually create new ones. Could the government share with the public what conclusive measures and policies have led it to even consider buying the tunnels.

So far no suggestions regarding innovative schemes connected with government ownership of the tunnels have been made known to the public.

If the government is thinking of subsidising one tunnel's toll with another's, it could do so right now without needing to spend up to $10 billion, as some suggest. I don't believe the chairman of Citic Pacific would care if the money it received came from the motorists or the government.

Most importantly, the root cause of the problem is not solely the differences in tunnel tolls. The roads infrastructure designed over the past few decades means all roads lead to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

If a driver used the Western Harbour Tunnel instead of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, for example, the time they would save crossing the harbour would be lost due to the diversions and traffic jams involved in getting to and going from the Western Tunnel. And would Jordan and Yau Ma Tei access roads be able to cope with the increased traffic? The government wouldn't need to buy the tunnels in order to improve the access roads.

So would the government please enlighten us as to what magical solutions it has in mind that have prompted it to even consider buying the tunnels? If there are indeed any brilliant solutions to cross-harbour traffic congestion, I would urge the government to try them out for a few months before it decides whether or not buying the tunnels is the best option.

Danny Ying, Kowloon Tong

On other matters...

I am writing in response to several incidents that occurred while I was visiting your fine city. On numerous occasions during my visit, pieces of concrete - and even windows - fell from buildings around the city.

I have to agree with Tony Cook of Hunghom, who wrote on these pages that 'anyone who owns a fixed asset such as a car or a building must be responsible for its upkeep.' I am wondering if anybody who is injured or whose property suffers damage in this way ever goes to court with a lawsuit against the owners of such buildings.

Why are these occurrences not taken more seriously? Does the city not issue fines to the buildings' owners? Is there no follow-up to ensure these things won't happen again? Does the city have any health and safety inspectors to chase offenders?

I believe that in my home country, Canada, these incidents would not happen and if they did, the property owners would be either held responsible and fined, or the city/province would have the building condemned.

For the health and safety of the people of Hong Kong, I urge the population to hound the councils and the government to ensure that they take notice. Every person should rally for change.

Name and address supplied