There is still more to be done to make Hong Kong’s roads safer

Increase in the number of red light cameras is a good step, but policies and laws need to be effective and road users must abide by the rules

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 1:44am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 1:43am

Traffic accidents seem inevitable in a city like Hong Kong, as evidenced in some 15,000 incidents recorded each year. While most were minor cases, the annual death toll has averaged 138 over the past 12 years. The figures still leave much to be desired.

It is good to hear that the situation has not been taken for granted. According to the Transport Department, another 40 red light cameras have been installed in different districts, bringing the total number to 195. Statistically, the number of red light jumping cases at such sites could be reduced by 43 to 55 per cent. The deterrent effect is expected to be strengthened further, it says.

Launched in the early 90s in the wake of a series of fatal crashes, the scheme has come to the fourth stage. The expansion is timely, as a total of 122 people were killed last year, 18 per cent more than in 2014.

The annual death toll in recent years is already lower than the range of between 140 and 166 in the past decade. The government probably needs to do more analyses before deciding whether more cameras are needed. Cost effectiveness is always an issue. The last two phases cost taxpayers over HK$134 million, yet the 195 cameras put in place over the past two decades only cover a fraction of the 1,800 road junctions across the city.

Traffic accidents are considered the ninth leading cause of death across all age groups, according to the World Health Organisation. Globally, there are some 1.25 million road traffic deaths each year; and the target is to halve the number by 2020. Ambitious as it may sound, the goal is achievable if governments and commuters do their part. Jumping traffic lights is just one of the many causes of accidents. Road safety can be compromised by problems like speeding, drink-driving, faulty vehicles, unbuckled seat belts, improper use of mobile phones, flawed road designs, insufficient penalties. Officials should therefore closely monitor the situation and make sure policies and laws are effective. Road users need to abide by the rules and stay vigilant.