Hong Kong motorists ignore basic rules of the road

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 April, 2010, 12:00am

I refer to the letters by Bob Carson ('Urgent lesson for HK drivers: stop for sirens, flashing lights', April 20) and Martin Turner ('Lack of respect for sirens', April 13).

While both correspondents are right to point out that most Hong Kong people have the wrong attitude when it comes to giving way to emergency vehicles, I believe the problems are more fundamental and relate to our citizens' increasing lack of manners and consideration for others.

I am afraid that the general attitude is that 'if it does not affect me, I am not going to do anything about it'. This is why many motorists are guilty of common driving errors in Hong Kong.

They fail to indicate left or right when they are supposed to. When they do, it is likely that they are crossing lanes at the last minute, when they should have chosen and moved into an appropriate one much earlier. They also do not appreciate the fact that indicating correctly helps other drivers as well as pedestrians, and when at a roundabout, for example, it smoothes traffic flow and minimises the risk of accidents.

Also, many motorists turn on the yellow hazard lights when braking.

The brighter, red rear brake lights should give ample warning to any drivers and, as I understand it, hazard lights should only be used when the vehicle is stationary. From my experience this use of hazard lights while braking is only common in Hong Kong. I think drivers hope this additional warning will help minimise the probability of being hit by the car behind rather than serve as a genuine warning against slower traffic ahead.

Pressing on the hazard light button is also an additional and unnecessary task when drivers should be concentrating on the road ahead - not on the dashboard or steering wheel, where most hazard light buttons are situated.

The city's drivers have a habit of overtaking on the inside lane. Most of them obviously do not appreciate why it is advisable to overtake on the outside lane. And, of course, there are those who stay in the outside lane, which should be used for overtaking only.

Finally, motorists accelerate whenever someone else indicates left or right to join the lane in front of them.

Maybe this is why people do not bother indicating any more - because they know the vehicle behind is unlikely to give way. I wonder if driving schools still teach the basics, and if they do, why drivers do not adopt them as second nature.

Specifically, to encourage more drivers to give way to emergency vehicles, maybe in addition to loud sirens we should consider adding a verbal message. I would suggest: 'Give way please. Maybe I am trying to reach one of your relatives or friends.'

Arthur Tam, Tai Hang