More people prosecuted for not buckling up
More taxi and public light bus drivers and passengers are being prosecuted for not wearing seat belts, but they are still not available on many of the city's minibuses.
The number of prosecutions brought by police rose from 1,848 in 2009 to 2,567 last year for public light buses and from 1,264 in 2009 to 1,409 in 2010 for taxis, according to the Transport and Housing Bureau.
And of the 2,567 public light bus prosecutions last year, two arrests were made - the first such arrests in the past six years.
Some 105 taxi passengers and drivers were injured last year because they were not wearing a seat belt - the highest for the past nine years despite police efforts to enforce the law.
Complaints were also made by passengers who said seat belts on some minibuses and taxis were damaged or did not work properly, according to a Legislative Council member.
All taxis registered on or after January 1, 2001 and public light buses registered on or after August 1, 2004 must provide seat belts which passengers must wear. The department also conducts annual bus and taxi checks to ensure seat belts are installed and working, and those who fall short of the requirements will not get their licences renewed.
Transport secretary Eva Cheng stated in a Legislative Council meeting yesterday that the HK$5,000 fine and up to three months' imprisonment for offenders the law provided for at present was appropriate, but the regulations would be reviewed when necessary.
The department says 57 per cent - 2,479 out of 4,350 - of the city's public light buses have seat belts.
Chairman of the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group Lai Ming-hung confirmed that about 40 per cent of old minibuses were in line to be replaced with ones that had seat belts, but the process has been slow.
'Many drivers don't like the new minibuses available, so the process has been slow,' Lai said, adding that minibuses have a different fuelling system which was more timeconsuming.
There are also only one or two types of manufacturers to choose from, so it was necessary to wait for new buses, he said. Lai said it may take up to 10 years for all minibuses to be fitted with seat belts.
Installing the belts on a minibus costs HK$10,000, so most companies and drivers were unwilling to do the work, especially when they may be getting a new minibus in a year or two.
Lai said the fact some buses had seat belts and some did not might be to blame for passengers failing to buckle up. 'It's hard to remember to put the belt on when not all buses have them,' he said.