The number of convictions for dangerous driving has dropped in the past three years despite an increase in the average number of monthly traffic accidents last year. A government document given to the legislature yesterday showed the number of drivers convicted of dangerous driving fell from 258 in 2005 to 201 in 2006 and 94 last year. Even after including the 70 uncompleted cases last year and the six for 2006, the drop in prosecutions last year amounted to more than 20 per cent compared with one year ago. Police said the improved figures should be attributed to strengthened publicity and education on road safety, coupled with enhanced enforcement in recent years, including large-scale operations to combat drink-driving and illegal road racing. However, Transport Department figures showed the average number of monthly traffic accidents and the average death toll last year were higher than in 2006. Statistics for the first 10 months of last year showed the average number of deaths a month was 12.6, compared with 11.25 for the whole of 2006. The average number of traffic accidents a month last year was 1,260, compared with 1,255 a year ago. Lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun said lenient sentences could be one of the reasons it was so difficult to curb offences. The document showed the severest sentence imposed last year for a conviction of dangerous driving causing death was 22 months. The maximum sentence is five years. However, the Transport and Housing Bureau has said it will submit a number of proposals - including increasing the penalty for dangerous driving resulting in death from five years to 10 - to the Legislative Council for discussion this fiscal year. The bureau said it could not judge if penalties imposed by courts were too lenient because every case had its own special circumstances. It also denied requesting the Court of Appeal to lay down sentencing guidelines for the offence, because unlike drug-trafficking cases where sentencing was directly related to the quantity of drugs, there were many more factors to consider, such as road conditions and the physical condition of the accused. Meanwhile, Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng Yu-wah said 45 per cent of double-decker buses would be fitted with safety belts on the four front seats on the upper deck this year, rising to 53 per cent by next year. For those that cannot be fitted, a guard rail would be installed behind the windscreen.