Road rage: action, not reactions, is needed over illegal parking
When people are no longer deterred from breaking the law, common sense dictates that it's time to review the law or impose a heftier penalty. In Hong Kong, the case for raising the HK$320 fine for illegal parking has been made for years. Yet officials and lawmakers just sit on the suggestion as congestion worsens. This does no credit to a government which prides itself on being responsive to changing needs.
The police handed out more tickets than before in the first seven months of this year, averaging 3,379 a day, or one every 26 seconds. The rate is 15 per cent higher than last year and 21 per cent above the year before. The number of penalty tickets has exceeded one million a year over the past two years.
Credit goes to the police for stepping up the crackdown on illegal parking. But it does not help if the penalty cannot deter non-compliance. While the growing number of tickets issued in recent years reflects the importance attached to enforcement, it is also indicative of the severity of the problem.
The penalty has not been revised since 1994. It looks absurdly lenient when compared with the HK$1,500 fine for littering and HK$2,000 for jay walking. That explains why many drivers do not mind paying the fine. But their convenience is gained at the expense of the interest of other road users.
A transport advisory panel earlier tabled a long overdue package of proposals to tackle traffic congestion in the city. This includes a 40 per cent rise in the penalty to HK$448. Whether it is high enough is open to debate. But the government is still tip-toeing around it, saying it would take into account public sentiment, stakeholders' views and other factors when finalising the measures. Equally disappointing are the responses of some lawmakers, who say the solution lies in building more car parks and discouraging car ownership by improving public transportation. Their ambiguous stance does little to tackle worsening traffic congestion. We need action rather than reactions.