Raising traffic fines can relieve congestion on Hong Kong’s roads

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 10:26pm

I support the government’s proposal to increase fines for some fixed-penalty traffic offences.

Hong Kong’s first-ever white paper on transport policy, published 25 years ago, proposed a three-pronged approach to developing our transport system: improving the transport infrastructure, expanding and improving public transport and managing road use.

These serve today as the three pillars of Hong Kong’s efficient transport system. While the first two pillars have drawn considerable attention, the importance of demand management has tended to be forgotten. However, the experience of neighbouring cities shows that this third pillar is equally important, if not more important than, the first two.

As an effective measure in managing road use, appropriate enforcement measures are essential for maintaining a safer and more efficient transport system.

Similar to other fiscal measures, the penalties for traffic offences should be adjusted in line with inflation to ensure they are set at an appropriate level to encourage compliance with traffic laws and regulations; otherwise, their effectiveness will diminish over time. Therefore, I support the government’s proposed adjustments of the fixed penalty for traffic offences, as they have not been changed for over two decades. This will not only help alleviate traffic congestion, but also improve road safety, for example, by maintaining adequate visibility of drivers and pedestrians at critical locations.

Some fixed penalty offences, such as speeding, are not included in the proposed increases, but they should be, perhaps at an even higher rate. If this is not done it would send the wrong message to the public that road safety is less important than other traffic management measures.

The revenue from the higher penalties could be channelled into road safety research and education campaigns such as those organised by the Road Safety Council and other NGOs. Taken together, these measures will help bring us closer to the council’s vision of “Zero Accidents on the Road, Hong Kong’s Goal”.

Although the increase in fixed penalties may not be welcomed by the driving community, I believe it will be effective in reducing traffic congestion and enhancing road safety, which in turn will provide motorists with a better driving environment. As a result, it will keep Hong Kong moving, and maintain its world-class, sustainable transport system.

S. C. Wong, chair professor and head, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Hong Kong