Deadly bus crash puts focus on health of drivers
Regular check-ups urged after man at wheel of double-decker collapses, causing deadly crash
Simpson Cheung and Jolie Ho
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Legislation should be passed requiring all public-transport drivers to have a comprehensive health check annually, a legislator urged yesterday, after two double-deckers crushed a taxi and caused three deaths and 56 injuries yesterday.
Passengers on the New World First Bus vehicle said they saw the 57-year-old driver, Lau Chit - who passed a physical in July - collapse just before the crash in Chai Wan Road, Shau Kei Wan.
First Bus drivers aged over 50 have regular body checks, but a union said those were only general check-ups.
Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki, a surgeon, said the government should invite medical professionals to draft guidelines on what items should be covered in a compulsory check-up.
He said it should include an exercise electrocardiogram, which would help find hidden heart problems.
"They are driving vehicles all around the town. They have a very high risk. Public vehicles can kill. I hope this will not happen again," he said.
Chan Shu-ming, director of the New World Bus branch of the Motor Transport Workers General Union, said current health checks covered general aspects such as the eyes, ears, lungs, blood pressure and urine. But a general electrocardiogram was not available until the age of 60.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said 50 was a reasonable age for bus drivers to undergo an annual health check.
Independent Eastern district councillor Daniel To Boon-man said the part of Chai Wan Road where the accident occurred was very steep and the scene of frequent accidents. He said he had suggested six months ago that the intersection be widened, as buses had little turning space.
The department has agreed to do so in a few years, when nearby residential blocks of Ming Wah Dai Ha undergo reconstruction. But To urged that the widening be carried out six months ago.
Cheung said the crash zone was not a traffic black spot, but the transport department would inspect the area to see if anything could be improved. He added that he expected the bus operators to submit reports on the incident as soon as possible.
Lawmaker Chan Kam-lam said the Legislative Council transport panel, which he chairs, would call a special meeting to discuss the crash.
In August, five passengers were injured after a Longwin bus hit a shopping centre in Tsuen Wan after the driver collapsed.