Speed limiters urged after fatal crash

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 August, 2009, 12:00am

A bus crash early yesterday that killed three people and injured 24 brought calls for speed limiters and seat belts to be required on all non-franchised buses - but the Transport Department made no promises this would be done, despite a mounting toll from crashes involving such vehicles. A single-deck bus carrying airport ground staff home after the night shift flipped after hitting a concrete divider on the North Lantau Highway near Siu Ho Wan just after 4.10am. Many of the passengers were asleep when the accident happened and, without seat belts holding them, were tossed about uncontrollably. The crash killed three men, Shum Ka-yung, 29, Ng Yu-bun, 33, and Wong Siu-kao, 51. Police said seat belts were essential to protect passengers in an accident while an engineer said they were especially important for people who were asleep and unable to react. Principal transport officer Albert Su Yau-on said the department would have talks with the trade on ways to improve safety but there might be 'technical difficulties' in fitting belts to older vehicles. A senior officer of the department said earlier that it might consider installing speed limiters on non-franchised buses after completing the same task on minibuses next year. But Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's transport panel, said the department should speed up action on speed limiters. 'When they proposed fitting seat belts in minibuses, we said they should also be installed in other forms of public transport. I hope the department will not rank the priority of its policies according to death rates,' he said. The crash came just over a year after another non-franchised bus crashed on New Hiram's Highway killing 19 people and injuring 44 when it flipped after speeding into a roundabout. Neither vehicle had seat belts. Three victims of yesterday's crash were found crushed under the 10-year-old bus and declared dead at the scene. One of the injured was in serious condition at Princess Margaret Hospital last night. The 46-year-old driver was charged with one count of dangerous driving causing death, but police said he had passed a breathalyser test. He was released on HK$10,000 bail. In 2004, the government introduced a law requiring all new public light buses to be fitted with seat belts, but older models were exempted. The Transport Department ordered last month that speed limiters be installed on all 4,350 minibuses by early 2011, with the top speed limited to 80km/h. But none of these requirements are in place for the city's nearly 6,000 non-franchised buses and seat belts are required only on the 1,000 cross-boundary coaches. Police Senior Inspector Kiang Kwok-ming agreed that seat belts were essential in minimising injuries, while engineer Lo Kok-keung said it was particularly important to protect passengers who were asleep. Public Omnibus Operators Association vice-chairman Aaron Yeung Wai-hung said that although seat belts were not required, most buses manufactured after 2005 were equipped with them anyway. 'It would be difficult if the government required us to retrofit seat belts in the old models, because some of them were not designed to withstand the impact,' he said. Principal transport officer Mr Su agreed, saying new and old non-franchised buses were not necessarily the same. 'They are manufactured in different years, their technical specifications also differed, so we can't treat them the same.' Other bus crashes Jun 13 Two female pedestrians killed when minibus mounts footpath after collision with doubledecker bus in Mong Kok Mar 1 Fifteen injured in 13-vehicle pile-up on Waterloo Road after coach's brakes apparently fail Jun 29, 2008 Out-of-control tour bus kills girl and injured 32 after crashing into eight vehicles in Central May 1, 2008 Nineteen killed and 44 injured when driver loses control of bus and hits noise barrier in Sai Kung Jul 10, 2003 Double-decker bus collides with container truck and plunges off flyover in Tuen Mun, killing 21