Road activists demand action to slow drivers and save lives

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am


A road safety group wants to force drivers to slow down.

Speaking on a day when the United Nations put a spotlight on traffic deaths around the world, the group said that lowering speed limits would reduce fatalities on the city's streets.

'Lowering car speed in urban areas not only improves road safety, but also improves our living environment and stimulates economic growth,' said Julian Kwong Tse-hin, chairman of the Community for Road Safety in Hong Kong.

Last year 117 people died on the city's roads, 69 of them pedestrians, according to police and the Transport Department.

Globally, 1.3 million people perished in traffic accidents last year, a total that the UN's Decade for Action for Road Safety aims to lessen. Activists in 102 countries called for a variety of safety measures to support the campaign.

Kwong, who plans to conduct an in-depth study and draft a proposal to the Transport Department, said he had recently measured the speeds of 50 cars in some of the city's major streets and roads. Traffic on Hysan Avenue reached 50km/h, he said. He clocked cars on Nathan Road going as fast as 72km/h.

Citing a study done last year by the French research group CERTU, Kwong said someone hit by a car travelling at 30km/h had a 5 per cent chance of being killed. That probability surged to more than 80 per cent if the car was travelling at 50km/h.

The current speed limit on highways in Hong Kong is 70 to 110km/h. It is 50km/h on both main streets and smaller roads.

Kwong urged the government to lower the speed limits on smaller roads to 30km/h. He said on busier thoroughfares like Nathan Road it should be 40km/h.

Professional drivers and many car owners disagree.

Kwan Yuk-wah, chairman of the Urban Taxi Drivers Association Joint Committee, said dropping the speed limit would shave his income by 10 per cent.

'It certainly affects my business,' he said. 'When speed is reduced, it takes longer to finish a journey and I will take fewer passengers a day. It would also make traffic congestion more serious.'

Ringo Lee Yiu-pui, chairman of the Institute of the Motor Industry Association, said it would be more practical to improve education for drivers.

Lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said reducing speed would not necessarily reduce accidents, because many drivers would switch lanes to get ahead.