Bad Hong Kong driving habits under spotlight with rise in cars

School of Motoring official says problem may not lie with new drivers, but with those who’ve been behind the wheel for years and become complacent

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 11:12pm

The city has one of the best public transport systems on Earth and, as a result, around 90 per cent of Hongkongers use some form of public transport – one of the highest percentages in the world.

However, car ownership has not declined; it has actually risen. From 2003 to 2013, the number of cars increased 40 per cent. This compares to a 3.6 per cent rise for buses and minibuses.

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With more cars on the road, combined with our narrow streets, bad driving habits are ­becoming more apparent.

According to police, the top five factors that contribute to accidents are driving inattentively, losing control, driving too close, careless lane changing and ­improper or illegal turning.

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Last year, there were 16,044 traffic accidents, according to ­Transport Department figures.

A total of 127 involved deaths – up from 117 in 2015 and 99 in 2014.

There is a belief that probationary drivers are the cause of most accidents, but according to Hong Kong School of Motoring head of marketing and communications Alan Soong Wai-leung that may be a misperception.

“New drivers are in fact more cautious than experienced drivers in general,” he said.

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“For those who have been ­licensed for some time, some poor driving habits may more likely be the result of feeling overconfident in their abilities.”

Hong Kong drivers are notorious for not switching on their ­indicators when switching lanes and giving way to other drivers.

Soong believes an “impatient driving culture” contributes to this behaviour.

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With the rise in popularity of Hollywood speed dramas, such as the Fast and the Furious series, Soong does not think films are ­influencing drivers to believe they are leading character ­Dominic ­Toretto at the wheel.

“We don’t have relevant ­studies, but we believe that drivers are all mature people and should be able to judge the genuineness and appropriateness of movie acts,” he said.

If drivers observed a number of habits, they could make driving a pleasant experience for all.

He listed some as using the seat belt, not speeding, not ­drinking and driving or taking to the wheel when tired, allowing enough time to reach a destination, observing traffic regulations at all times andregularly upgrading driving skills.