A proven way to cut road deaths
Value-for-money reports by the Audit Commission measure the performance of government departments and public bodies against objectives. This can help prompt action by officials to meet public expectations. The latest report raises questions about road safety - in particular speeding and drink-driving. It found that taxi drivers on average commit speeding offences 51 times more often than bus drivers and eight times more often than minibus drivers.
Last year, according to a report tabled in the Legislative Council, taxis clocked more than 1,700 speeding offences per 1,000 vehicles, a worrying 37 per cent increase over 2011. Even such a high incidence of offending could understate the problem, given the competition for fares. That is a worry, since speed is one of the main killers on the roads.
The Transport Department has promised to consider practicable steps to enhance road safety, including a set of service standards. Audit chiefs called for compulsory pre-service training courses for taxi drivers, along with the installation of devices for recording, displaying and limiting speed. An industry spokesman urged the government to curb illicit fare discounting that encourages drivers to speed to earn more money. For the sake of Hong Kong's reputation as a safe city, officials should seriously consider both suggestions.
One of the most effective road-safety measures has been the introduction of random breathalyser tests in 2009. Since then drink-driving accidents have fallen about two-thirds. Audit chiefs say spending more on them would have given better value for money. They urged police to buy more breath-test devices to cut delays in getting drink-drivers to police stations with functioning machines for tests that can be used in court. Drivers are walking free or being charged with lesser offences because their blood alcohol concentrations have dropped since the roadside test. Surely a law that has been shown to save lives, prevent injury and reduce the social and economic cost of the road toll is worth an investment in effective enforcement?