Serious thought must be given to preventing road accidents
- Two crashes in two days involving school buses should act as a wake-up call for all involved in ensuring road safety
Traffic accidents are not uncommon in Hong Kong. But when fatal crashes make headlines one after another, there is a cause for concern. The series of tragedies in recent months, the latest involving a school bus in Kwun Tong yesterday and another school bus in North Point on Monday, has prompted serious reflections over the city’s road safety. Police suspect that the 62-year-old driver in the North Point incident might have failed to put the handbrake in position when he left the empty 19-seater bus on a slope. The vehicle hurtled 100 metres downhill and swept across the busy junction of King’s Road before smashing into a shop nearby, killing four people and injuring 11 others, including the driver who tried to stop the bus with his body. It was the third fatal crash in 10 days.
Yesterday, another school bus hit a concrete divider in Kwun Tong in the morning and injured seven children, the nanny and the driver on board. Coincidentally, a KMB bus driver was on Monday sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail for an accident that killed three passengers in Sham Shui Po last year.
Traffic accidents numbered about 14,000 in the first 11 months of this year, roughly the same as that in the same period last year. But the number of fatal incidents rose by 10 per cent to 99 cases. Compared to the estimate of an annual 1.2 million traffic fatalities worldwide, Hong Kong’s situation may not seem particularly worrying. That said, one accident is one too many. A total of 118 people have been killed on our roads so far this year, including 19 passengers killed in a KMB bus accident in Sha Tin in February.
Investigations into Monday’s tragedy are ongoing, but social media is already awash with discussion on ways to prevent stationary vehicles from slipping downhill. For a city well known for its hilly landscape, parking a vehicle safely on a sloping road should be common knowledge.
Many accidents are indeed avoidable. It is important that we revisit the relevant issues and do our best to address the inadequacies, be it policies, legislation, road design, driving standards, vehicle safety equipment, drivers’ occupational health problems or industrial bad practices. Lessons must be learned.