Wearing of seat belts is simply common sense
- Familiar arguments regarding safety are being revived following the crash involving a coach and a taxi that killed six people on a busy Hong Kong road
Safety should be on our minds all the time, but it only tends to get attention after a tragedy. The same reactionary approach is again in play after six people died and 31 were injured late last month when a coach ploughed into the back of a stationary taxi on the Cheung Tsing Highway in Tsing Yi. Discussion about seat belts and the working hours of drivers has been revived, with much-trodden arguments being rehashed by officials and operators; cost, as always, features. A too often overlooked question has to be asked: since when were profits more important than lives?
No price can be put on a person’s life, is the only valid answer. Yet operators are arguing that putting seat belts in all private coaches is not feasible due to the high cost. They estimate it to be as much as HK$300,000 for each vehicle, which includes buying the belts, replacing seats, raising floorboards and running safety tests. They are willing to make a concession and have the equipment installed on all new buses. They are also supportive of rules that would make wearing seat belts compulsory.
There are about 7,000 coaches in Hong Kong and half are estimated to be fitted with seat belts. But laws only apply to vehicles fitted with belts; when installed, all drivers have to wear them, as do passengers in private and public light buses, taxis, goods vehicles and private cars. The coach involved in the accident had belts, but how many of those killed or injured had been wearing them is not known. There is certainty, though, on a matter highlighted on the website of the Transport Department: wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of death or serious injury by about half.
The high volume of passenger traffic on public buses covering city routes arguably makes the fitting and mandatory use of seat belts on them impractical. But there can be no good reason why they should not be compulsorily fitted and worn in all other vehicles, school buses included; it is a matter of safety and common sense.
A special working group on safety to look into the matter for coaches has been promised by transport officials, but the answer appears obvious – all people travelling for any length of time on our roads should buckle up.