Who will police the idling ban, and why is the penalty so small?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 May, 2010, 12:00am

The watered-down Motor Vehicle Idling (Fixed Penalty) Bill was discussed at the Legislative Council on April 28 ('Cabbies flex muscles as bill on idling engines is introduced', April 29).

It appears that this bill, when enacted, will be as ineffective as the anti-smoking legislation.

The government has no serious determination to improve the air quality on our streets.

Take the ridiculous three-minute grace period.

This will encourage drivers to procrastinate, and cause endless conflict.

Legislators must insist that once a vehicle is stationary the legislation immediately kicks in.

Our traffic wardens will not have time to hang around with stopwatch in hand; just do the arithmetic.

Hong Kong currently has some 250 traffic wardens, and an extra 18 - yes, you read that correctly, 'one eight' - officers will be recruited to ease their workload and cover the 18 districts.

These officers should be sent out in pairs, as they will certainly face challenges and even verbal and physical abuse.

With some team members on their day off - and this is one job where a five-day week should be mandatory, and two shifts per day - there will be only three pairs of officers out on each district's streets at any given time.

It is obvious that with such limited manpower the traffic wardens will not be able to cope. They are stretched as it is with the volume of illegal parking and other traffic infringements that are a common feature on our streets.

Legco members must insist that the number of traffic wardens is at least doubled - after all, there are 3,000-plus Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers, yet discarded cigarette butts can be seen everywhere.

Then there is the ridiculously small, fixed penalty of HK$320.

This is blatant discrimination, as pedestrian offences carry much higher penalties: anti-littering HK$1,500, jaywalking HK$2,000, and then there is the HK$5,000 anti-smoking fine.

Meanwhile, traffic offences come with risible fines of HK$320, which are rarely enforced as government policy is a verbal warning - so traffic wardens cannot issue a ticket.

Our legislators must, therefore, ensure that the fine matches the offence.

Polluting our air is a much more serious issue than dropping a tissue on the pavement.

There must also be provision for prosecution and demerit points for serial offenders.

After all, if you can afford a Ferrari, what incentive is there to switch off when you can idle on for a mere HK$320?

We have waited far too long for this legislation to be passed. It must be both effective and enforceable.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai