Minibuses must slow down or get off the road

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am

Once again, there has been a terrible accident involving a minibus. This time, three people were killed. Fourteen others were injured. Police investigating the case believe the driver, who was among the dead, drove his vehicle into the back of a truck. It was only last month that two pedestrians were run over and killed by a minibus in Mong Kok. That driver was arrested for dangerous driving causing death.

Minibuses have become death traps and many of their drivers are a menace on the roads. Without doubt, there are responsible and safe drivers but they sometimes appear to be the exception rather than the rule. How many more deaths do we have to accept before authorities crack down on dangerous minibus drivers and completely revamp this unsafe public transport industry? Why do passengers continue to allow themselves to be abused and endangered by rude and aggressive minibus drivers?

We cannot allow ourselves to be held hostage by irresponsible and dangerous minibus drivers and their bosses any more. The last major attempt at improving service and safety was made with the installation of speedometers and seat belts after a public outcry over a fatal accident in North Point on October 17, 2004. That was when two minibus drivers competing for passengers crashed, killing two people and injuring 17 others. The safety record has not improved much, if at all. Try complaining to a driver that he is speeding; he is more likely to curse at you than slow down.

Hong Kong does not lack clean and efficient public transport systems. Most routes across the city can be reached by MTR trains, trams and buses. Except for a few locations, people do not need to rely on the minibus services. They should not sacrifice safety for convenience.

Any attempt at reform will provoke the drivers and their supporters. Protests and confrontations can be expected. But they need to know the depth of public anger at their terrible safety record and poor service. The industry needs to clean up or disappear.