Green light ahead for tougher fines

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2005, 12:00am

Legco set to back stiffer penalties on jumping stop signs despite rising industry anger

A tougher penalty for red-light jumpers is likely to get backing in the Legislative Council tomorrow, with the support of major parties despite escalating protests from professional drivers' groups.

Members of the Democratic Party and the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong are expected to vote for a five-demerit-point penalty with a $600 fine for the offence, up from three points and a $450 fine.

The Alliance, a grouping with five members, also supported the resolution, member Bernard Chan said.

The Liberal Party legislator representing the transport constituency, Miriam Lau Kin-yee, said members of her party were likely to vote for the new penalty but she would oppose it.

'As the representative of the transport constituency, I wish to express their views on this one,' she said.

Ms Lau claimed the tougher penalty would not be fair to professional drivers because it would cover all traffic-light offences, including running yellow lights and cases in which the driver stopped past the white line.

'They [the trade] are not opposed to increasing the penalty for running red lights, but they oppose increasing the penalty for cases that are not dangerous,' she said.

Police said yesterday about 150 professional drivers marched from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai to the Central Government Offices to protest against the proposed penalty.

Organisers put the figure at 250 marchers, mostly bus, taxi and truck drivers representing 26 associations. Some were in their uniforms, while others wore red shirts and red ribbons around their foreheads.

Motor Transport Workers General Union chairman Li Wing-sang said they were demanding more cameras at junctions to monitor offenders more accurately before the new penalty kicked in. They also wanted hanging traffic lights and flashing green lights before the yellow light to give drivers more time to stop.

'We are really disappointed at Secretary for Transport Sarah Liao Sau-tung because she hasn't accepted our suggestion on the flashing green light,' he said.

Mr Li said the trade would hold another protest this Sunday if the resolution on the new penalty was passed.

Kwok Chi-piu, chairman of Urban Taxi Drivers' Association Joint Committee, said he would not rule out a protest blocking some roads.

A Transport Bureau spokesman urged drivers to stay calm and said government officials would ask the Finance Committee to approve $50 million on Friday to buy 68 cameras and install 20 camera housings. The work will be finished by the end of next year. The new penalty comes in on January 1.