Police to step up crackdowns on drink driving

Updated at 7.19pm: Police would step up crackdowns on drink driving when World Cup football matches are being shown in June, Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung said on Wednesday.

Dr Liao was replying to a question by Lau Wong-fat at a Legislative Council meeting. Mr Lau, who represents the District Council constituency, asked what measures the government had carried out to combat drink driving which often caused accidents.

The transport secretary said police would pay special attention to drink driving at night-time and in the early morning, following an increase in the number of such offences this year.

?They will also increase large-scale enforcement operations against drink driving during special festive seasons and during the forthcoming World Cup football matches,? she said.

The World Cup would be shown on Hong Kong television and in bars and clubs from June 9 until July 9. It is extremely popular in the territory.

Dr Liao revealed that prosecutions against drink driving in the first four months of 2006 amounted to 448, up 15 per cent compared with the same period in 2005.

Between 1996 and 2005, the number of drink driving prosecutions has increased from 649 to 1,335. In the three years to 2005, there were almost 300 drink-driving related accidents with casualties, she said.

Dr Liao also said police would launch publicity campaigns to tie in with their enforcement action.

?Apart from distributing leaflets in areas with many bars and restaurants, they will also invite members of the public to try the breath test so as to enhance the publicity effect,? she said.

?We will further enrich the module on drink driving in driver training and improvement programmes, and incorporate messages against drink driving in general road safety publicity campaigns.?

Earlier this week, taxi drivers urged the government to empower police to carry out random breath tests during the World Cup football tournament next month, after a suspected drink-driving accident that killed two people in Yau Ma Tei.

The Urban Taxi Drivers? Association Joint Committee said the group was concerned that soccer fans who had been drinking would emerge from pubs and bars to drive, posing a serious risk to the lives of other road users.

Under the present law, police could require a driver to take a breath test if he is involved in an accident, commits a moving offence or is suspected of drink driving. But a driver can decline to be tested if there has been no accident.

The existing legislation governing drink driving was introduced in 1995 and toughened in 1999. According to the Road Traffic Ordinance, a person who drives with an alcohol concentration exceeding 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood commits an offence.

?When compared with other overseas countries, we are one of the places with the most stringent prescribed limit,? Dr Liao said.

Drivers face a $25,000 fine and three years in jail for drink driving. Police carried out 1,335 breathalyser tests last year and 1,487 in 2004.