All revved up with nowhere to go

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2011, 12:00am

If there is one international news event that has resonated locally this week, it has to be Sunday's 14-car pile-up in southern Japan, which included eight Ferraris and a Lamborghini Diablo. Perhaps only Hong Kong shares with Japan such a concentration of super-fast luxury cars and the boy racers who drive them.

Local sports-car owners will be thinking: 'There but for the grace of God ...' The rest of us, meanwhile, are left to suppress a snigger or two as we wait for the bus.

Certainly, the Yamaguchi prefecture traffic police chief sided with the masses as he surveyed the US$4 million wreckage that, mercifully, included no life-threatening injuries. Unusually eloquent for a traffic officer, Mitsuyoshi Isejima described the drivers as 'a gathering of narcissists'.

The sight of such cars flitting in and out of slower traffic on the Island Eastern Corridor and other highways is all too common in Hong Kong as the often-young male drivers feel the need for speed, whatever the situation.

Then there are the groups who gather in the wee small hours of the morning to fly along more torturous routes, such as the road to Shek O.

Unlike parts of Europe, Hong Kong's tight and congested roads necessarily have relatively low speed limits. And unlike many other places, Hong Kong does not have the space for private tracks that allow owners of fast cars to drive their prized possessions to their full potential in relative safety. One can only imagine, then, the sense of impotence that comes with owning a car capable of exceeding 300km/h when confronted with rush-hour traffic on Queen's Road Central.

Undoubtedly, there is a sense of pride, too, in possessing an example of the heights of automotive excellence. Yet, if there is any lesson from Sunday's pile-up, it is that not even the owners of the world's finest and fastest cars are immune from the reality of the two-second rule of safe driving.