A black spot is where any accident occurs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2010, 12:00am

There is no doubt there are dangerous stretches of road where drivers, police and transport authorities should exercise more care and invest more effort to minimise accidents. It's hard to imagine much time should be spent debating which stretches of road are dangerous. If there's any question, err on the side of caution.

But as it turns out, police and transport officials disagree about what constitutes a traffic black spot. Their argument has been sparked by a collision between a minibus and taxi at a Sha Tin junction on Monday that left one man dead and six other people injured. The spot was not considered dangerous and worthy of special attention, despite at least 14 previous accidents in the past decade, one of them involving a fatality.

A single accident should be cause for concern. Every effort should be taken to ensure that another does not occur at the location. Yet where Tai Chung Kiu Road and Sha Tin Wai Road meet, there is no warning sign, speed camera or other indication for drivers to be careful. The reason is that it was not defined as a black spot. Police see it as a problem if two accidents involving injury occur in the same place in a month. The Traffic Department makes such a classification only if there are six crashes involving injuries in 12 months, nine with injuries or deaths in the same period or two with fatalities in five years. Numbers and statistics are meaningless to the victims and their relatives and friends.

Whether the junction had been declared dangerous may not have made any difference. The minibus was an older model and was not required to have seatbelts fitted; the lack of this safeguard may have cost a life. It is because of such oversights that our roads are not as safe as they should be. Disagreements over whether a section of road at which people have been killed or injured is dangerous or not is yet another example of bureaucracy triumphing over common sense. If a problem exists, officials have to promptly come together and fix it. Too often, though, their conflicting interests means it gets left undone. Sometimes, that means that lives are put at risk.