Under the Road Traffic (Safety Equipment) Regulations (Cap. 374 sub. leg. F) (the Regulations), a public light bus (PLB) passenger is required to wear a seat belt if it is provided for his or her seat. It has been reported that the situation of PLB passengers not wearing seat belts has aroused concern. As quite a number of passengers habitually keep their heads down to use mobile phones or close their eyes for rest after boarding PLBs, they pay no attention to the notices inside PLBs which remind passengers to wear seat belts, while the drivers do not take the initiative to remind passengers to do so. Regarding the wearing of seat belts by PLB passengers, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) in the past three years and this year to date, of the number of operations conducted by plain-clothed policemen disguised as PLB passengers for surprise checks on whether passengers on board had fastened their seat belts, the districts in which such operations were conducted, and the number of passengers prosecuted for failing to wear seat belts during such operations; of the respective numbers of verbal warnings, summonses and fixed penalty tickets issued by the authorities; whether there are plans to increase the number of operations for surprise checks and the number of police officers involved in such operations, and to extend the areas in which such operations are conducted; if there are such plans, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) as it has been reported that the Transport Department has requested PLB drivers, through various channels (including letters to PLB trade unions, the PLB newsletters, as well as regular meetings with the PLB trade), to remind passengers that they must wear seat belts, whether it has assessed the effectiveness of such measures or other measures that aim at enhancing passengers’ awareness of wearing seat belts; as it is voluntary for PLB drivers to remind passengers to wear seat belts and it has been alleged that the notices posted inside PLBs are inconspicuous, whether the authorities have plans to require the PLB trade to enhance the dissemination of the relevant message by the use of electronic display boards, the broadcasting of audio recordings or other means; if they have such plans, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that the relevant provisions in the Regulations have been in force for more than a decade, and the seat belts of some PLBs have already been damaged or are defective, whether the authorities conduct random checks on PLB seat belts regularly to see if they function properly, or require PLB owners to arrange for regular inspections of and repairs on such equipment; whether they will consider introducing a subsidy scheme to assist the trade in improving seat belt equipment; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the various parts of the Hon Chan Kin-por’s question is as follows:
(1) Currently, apart from disguising as public light bus (PLB) passengers to conduct surprise checks on whether passengers on board have fastened their seat belts, police officers also carry out such checks during routine operations such as roadblock checks. As regards the number of surprise checks conducted by police officers disguised as PLB passengers, the districts where such checks were conducted, and the number of verbal warnings issued, the Police have not kept a record of the information concerned.
Under the existing legislation, the Police will issue summonses to prosecute offending passengers. Fixed penalty tickets cannot be used for such prosecution. From 2011 to September 2014, a total of 5 448 PLB passengers in various districts were prosecuted for not wearing seat belts.
The Police will continue to take enforcement action in various districts against PLB passengers not wearing seat belts, and will keep in view the situation. The Police will consider stepping up enforcement efforts should the need arise.
(2) The Transport Department (TD) has been keeping in view the usage of seat belts by passengers. To enhance passengers’ awareness of road safety, TD has been working together with the Road Safety Council to remind passengers to wear seat belts through various channels, including broadcasting of television and radio Announcements in the Public Interest, production and distribution of stickers for display inside PLBs, promotional leaflets and the Road Safety Bulletin, etc. In addition, TD will continue to make use of regular meetings with the PLB trade and the newsletter on PLB to appeal to the trade to request PLB drivers to, before moving off, remind passengers to wear seat belts. Currently, some green minibuses have already installed television screens for disseminating various types of information which include messages reminding PLB passengers to wear seat belts. TD believes that the above measures are instrumental in enhancing passengers’ awareness of wearing seat belts.
TD will explore other practicable methods with the trade to promote and educate passengers on wearing seat belts, such as displaying reminder slogans at conspicuous positions inside PLBs, and enhancing the use of on-board electronic-media to remind passengers to wear seat belts, etc.
(3) Under the existing legislation, PLBs are required to pass a vehicle examination conducted by TD prior to their annual licence renewal. The vehicle examination includes checking whether passenger seat belts inside PLBs are properly fitted, functioning well and free of damage so as to ensure the proper operation of seat belts. Besides, upon receipt of any complaint about damaged or malfunctioning seat belts on PLBs, TD will require the PLB operator or owner concerned to take follow-up action and arrange for repair. Where necessary, TD will issue a vehicle examination order to request the PLB concerned to undergo an examination at TD.
According to the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374A), every vehicle, including all body work and fittings, shall be maintained in good and serviceable condition. Therefore, it is the vehicle owner’s responsibility to ensure proper maintenance and repair of a vehicle. As such, the Government has no plan to provide subsidies to PLB owners in this regard.
TD will continue to remind PLB owners and drivers to pay due attention to the condition of seat belts during routine vehicle inspections, and to promptly arrange for repair of any damaged seat belts.