Red-top minibus ran on pedestrian and the driver finally convicted guilty in the court.
(Video taken by others and put on you tube)
Three people died at the scene and a fourth in hospital on 25 July 2009 in a Yuen
Long crach involving a minibus and a container truck.
(Green-top minibus after the accident)
According to the reports from the Police, there were 1118 and 1017 minibus
related accidents occurred in 2007 and 2008. Among them, 17 people died and 899
injured in 2007 and 14 people died and 1603 injured in 2008 respectively. The issue
was attached great importance during the years. The government officials and
Transport Advisory Committee were discussing that issue since 2002 and aimed at
coping with the fatal accidents of minibuses resulting from speeding. Measures were
introduced to tackle with the problem. For instance, to enhance the safety of
passengers, public light buses registered on or after 1 August 2004 were required to be
fitted with passenger seat belts and high-back seats. Besides, on 1 May 2008, public
light minibuses were required to be fitted with an approved speed display device and
no alteration is allowed. The objectives were to enhance the hardware of minibuses in
order to reduce the number of accidents and improve the road safety. However, the
fatal accidents still occurred nearly once a month. Annual report of Transport
Complaints Unit in 2008 pointed out that about 57% and 79% of comlpaints received
related to imporper driving behaviour, misconduct and poor performance of drivers of
green-top minibuses and red-top minibuses. The Government thought that the
drivers’ attitude and speeding were the source of the accidents. In this connection,
three new measures will be launched to further enhance the road safety and response
to the growing public concern over traffic accidents. They are the installation of
Speed Limiter, Black Box and mandatory pre-service training for new minibus
One of the three measures the Government is going to introduce is the
compulsory installation of speed limiters to all 4,350 public light buses by early 2011.
Speed limiter is a device that main function is to limit the injection of fuel to the
engine to control the maximum speed of the vehicle at the pre-set speed as stipulated
in the license condition. The main objective of this campaign is to prevent the public
light buses from exceeding the pre-set speed and endangering the road users and the
As the speed limiters can effectively control the maximum speed of the
minibuses, the drivers will not be able to drive exceeding the set speed. It is believed
that the risk of collision can be reduced when the minibus drivers drive at lower
When the minibus drivers cannot exceed the speed limit set by the speed
controllers, it can be believed that the need for the police to assign officers to pretend
normal passengers to collect speeding evidence in the public light buses no longer
exists. Thus the law enforcement cost can be saved for performing other important
The speed of the public light bus is critical for the red-top minibus drivers to
maximize the number of trips in limited period of time to enhance their revenue. If
the maximum speed of their red minibuses is limited, the drivers may drive faster in
the non-highways to compensate the speed lost in the highway to maintain the level of
their income. This may increase rather than reduce the risk of traffic accidents.
As a remedy for the income loss from lower maximum speed in highway, the
red-top minibus drivers may also perform some dangerous acts such as dashing
through the cross roads in front of the red traffic lights and allowing the passengers to
get on the minibuses in the restricted areas to increase the number of potential
passengers. Recent news revealed that a red-top minibus driver even drove into the
pedestrian to overtake the vehicles in the front. After the installation of speed
limiters, it can be expected that the red-top minibus drivers may perform more such
dangerous actions to compensate their loss from lower maximum speed.
The suppliers of minibus fed by the liquefied petroleum gas revealed that there
are technical difficulties in adding the speed controllers to such vehicles. This is the
case even in other countries such as Australia and Korea. As there is such loophole in
installation of the speed limiters, some red-top minibus drivers may take this
advantage to shift to drive such vehicles. Also, as the speed limiters can only control
the maximum speed but not the speed levels according to different roads with
different speed limits, they cannot prevent the minibus drivers from speeding in the
roads with lower speed limits. Thus the effectiveness of the new measure will be
Black box, as the name implies, is a device like what mandatorily installed in the
aircrafts. The rationale and functions of black box in minibuses are the same as that
in the aircrafts. The black box can record the date, time, speed, drivers’ actions and
minibus reactions in order to have better understanding to what happens when
accidents occur just as in the aircrafts.
The Transport Department will table a bill to the Legislative Council in the early
2010 and will compel new minibuses to install the black box by adding a clause in
minibus licenses and passenger service licenses. The Government will not mandate
the existing minibuses to install black box due to the technical limitation. Any person
who makes unauthorised alteration to the device which leads to the device not
functions normally, commits an offence and is liable to a fine and imprisonment. The
installation of black box is simple to implement since every newly registered minibus
has to be equipped before put in service. And it is believed that the black box can
prevent the drivers from trying to commit traffic offences.
Some argue that the installation of black box cannot prevent the accidents caused
by speeding because such device can only provide more information just after the
accidents occurred. Indeed, it is not difficult to find out the reasons for minibus
related accidents even though there is no black box installed. Such device is just a
data-collecting machine which has no effect on driving. The function of this device is
not a precautionary measure. If the drivers believed that they would not encounter
accidents even if they break the traffic rules, their driving attitude will remain.
Pre-service training for new Public Light Bus (PLB) drivers
The Government will introduce a mandatory pre-service training course focusing
on the driving behaviour and attitude of applicants for the minibus driving licenses.
This is a new course apart from PLB Driver Training Course and Driving
Improvement Course. Every driver should finish the pre-service course before getting
the licenses for minibuses. The main aim is to improve the driving attitude of the
minibus drivers. The course emphasized on the road safety, passenger safety, driving
behaviour and attitude, service skills, handling accidents, emergency vehicle control
and road safety regulations.
The plan is accepted by different parties since they all believed that the main
reason for the accidents is the attitude of the drivers. Educating the drivers before
they commence the business is a precautionary measure to avoid imporper driving
behaviour and misconduct.
But we should take a more in-depth look at the case. Is there any reason
motivating the drivers to commit traffic offences? Or is there any inducement for
speeding? Improving the driving attitude and behaviour is one of the methods to
enhance road safety. However, if we cannot solve the ultimate problem behind why
there are so many fatal traffic accidents within this industry, the drivers will insist
their driving behaviour even though they understand the importance of the road safety
and good driving attitude.
Main reasons for Traffic accidents
One of the real sources of the problems of public light buses is the salary structure
of the red minibuses. At present, the red-top minibus drivers’ income is composed of
an agreed percentage of the remaining of fare revenue after subtracting the cost of
fuel. For those who are both owners and drivers of the red-top minibuses, they take
even all the remaining of the fare revenue by subtracting the fuel and maintenance
costs. This means that the more trips red-top minibus drivers can finish every day, the
more they will earn potentially. This is a great motivation for the red-top minibus
drivers to rush for every trip and manage to maximize the number of trips each day
even by driving in contrary to the traffic laws.
The other real source of the problems is the driving attitude. This is the case for
some of the red-top and green-top minibus drivers. For the red-top minibus drivers,
their driving attitude is usually perverted by the problematic salary structure. For the
green-top minibus drivers, some of them may rush to finish the trips because they
want to get a longer break between the trips. Some of them even take up secret and
illegal part-time job during the non-working hours for extra money. So they may
breach the road traffic laws when it is necessary for finishing such trips more quickly.
For the minibus drivers with bad driving attitude, if they think that they will not
be easily caught by the police or the gain from breaking the traffic laws to increase
their income is larger than the potential loss from being fined for the traffic offence,
the situation will become worse.
Speed Limiters for the Real Problems
As we can see that the real problems come from the salary structure and the drive
attitude of the minibus drivers, the installation of speed limiters is not only unable to
solve the real problems but also create new problems. According to the statistics
(Annex 2), the major causes of the traffic accidents are driving too close to the
vehicles in front and careless lane changing rather than speeding. Therefore, speed
limiters do nothing with the major causes of the traffic accidents.
On the other hand, the installation of speed controllers create new potential
problems such as increasing the chances of speeding in non-highways, dashing
through red traffic lights and driving into the restricted areas as mentioned before.
Thus installing speed limiters alone may not be able to solve the real problems.
Black box for the Real Problems
As we know the main reasons of traffic accidents, black box installation has only
a limited effect on minibus related accidents. The drivers will still drive exceeding
speed limits on the roads to make more income. They would believe that the device
functions only after accidents occur. Even though there is a traffic accident, black box
only records the time and the speeds of the minibuses. It cannot relate the speeds to
specific roads. It is difficult for the Police to gather sufficient evidences from the
black boxes. Futhermore, the illegal alteration to the device is another problem.
Speed display device is a typical example. According to Road Traffic (Construction
and Maintainence of Vehicles) Regulation, any misuse, malfunction or alertation of
speed display device would constitute an offence. Since the Regulations took effect
on 1 May 2008, no person had been prosecuted for such an offence. In fact, we can
easily find that many speed display devices installed in minibuses are altered. Some
devices could not reflect the actual speeds and some even cannot produce sound when
the speed was over 80 km/hour. Therefore, the effectiveness of the installation of
black box remains a question.
Pre-service training for the Real Problems
Pre-service training course can improve the road safety and minimise minibus
related accidents for a certain extend. Since the attitude and behaviour of minibus
drivers will directly affect their driving habits. The course can provide a correct
concept of road safety and proper driving techniques before they drive the minibuses
on the roads. But the point is that even though they attend the course before service,
would they really follow what they have learnt and strictly adhere to the regulations
on the roads? If we do nothing to the salary structure and the operation mode of the
minibus industry (especially in the red-top minibus industry), the problems still exist
because there is an inducement for them to break traffic rules to make more money.
Alternative Solutions for the real problems
To solve the complex real problems in reality, we need a combination of
solutions rather than a single one.
Adjusting Salary Structure
Nowadays, out of the 4,350 public light buses in Hong Kong, almost 70% of
them are green-top minibuses and the rest are red-top minibuses. While the drivers of
the former receive fixed salaries from their companies, those of the latter involve in
the profit sharing scheme with the vehicle owners or even operate as a sole
proprietorship. Both of the structures for red-top minibuses are problematic in the
long run. It is because in the profit sharing scheme, what the owners of the vehicles
concern is only how much profit can the drivers make and the owners will usually
reluctant to impose any control on the drivers’ driving behaviour to confine the
profits. The sole proprietorship format is even the time bomb for the road safety. It
makes the drivers operate nearly without any control except from the police. The
only long-term solution to this problem is changing all the red-top minibus to be
green-top ones to put them under the control of the company and the Government.
But this should be done step by step. To attain this goal the Legislative Council
should gradually utilize its power to vote for the reduction of the number of the red-
top minibus licenses and the replacement from the green-top ones for the future
extension periods. The ultimate goal is to replace all the red-top minibuses by the
External Indictor Lights
Instead of installing speed limiters, we should consider to install the External
Indictor Lights to the minibuses. It is a speed indictor that can reflect the actual range
of speed of the vehicles. The light will be installed on the top of the minibuses and
different lights represent different range of speed. Once the speed is over 80 km/hour,
for example, red light will turn on. It can alert other road users for them to better
assess the road situation. The Police can easily detect the speeding offence. There are
different lights to indicate different ranges of speed of minibuses for the Police to
enforce laws according to speed limits of different roads. The number of speeding
offence will definitely decrease because it is easy to detect who is speeding.
Singapore is one of the countries using this system to cope with speeding problem.
Enhance the passengers’ responsibilities
Passengers also bear repsonsibility on speeding. Many passengers know that
minibus drivers usually drive exceeding speed limits. But this is the reason why some
of them choose to travel with minibuses since they can reach their destination faster.
Passengers will normally not report to the Police when they enjoy the advantage of
speeding but they will blame the drivers once accidents occur. In indeed, it is the
responsibility of the passengers to report speeding cases to the Police. We can
introduce a rewarding system for the complaints leading to successful prosecution of
traffic offence. It can be financed by part of the fine from traffic offences. It can
highly motivate the passengers to report the traffic offence. If the drivers think that it
is highly probable for the passengers to report their misconduct, they will tend to
comply with the laws more strictly.
Increase Penalty for Breach of Traffic Rules
In Hong Kong, it has been introduced a driving-offence points system. Although
the penalties for the driving offences had been increased in the past, it seems not
adequate. According to the Road Traffic Ordinance, the driving-offence point for
failing to comply with traffic signals is 5. As the disobedience to the traffic signal in
the cross roads is especially dangerous and fatal, it is recommended to increase the
driving offence point from 5 to 10 in the cross roads. At the moment, failure to keep a
safe distance from the vehicle in front and changing lane carelessly are the main
causes of multiple and serious collisions. However, the present laws do not specify
any particular offences for such acts and the offenders can only be charged for
careless driving. As the process to collect evidence for careless driving is difficult
and blurred, we recommend the Legislation Council to introduce failing to keep a safe
distance with the vehicles in front and changing lane carelessly as new traffic offences
to enhance the prosecution effectiveness and efficiency. When the minibus drivers
know that their potential gain from breaking the traffic law cannot cover the cost of
being fined, they will be motivated to comply with the laws.
Legislative Council Panel on Transport Measures to Enhance Road Safety, LC Paper No.
Hong Kong Extras, Minibus(PLB) http://www.hongkongextras.com/_minibus_public_light_bus.html
Transport Advisory Committee http://www.thb.gov.hk/tc/boards/transport/land/tac.htm
Annual report 2008 of Transport Complaints Unit
Measures to Enhance Road Safety[CB(1)298/04-05(06)]
Figure 3.8 Vehicle involvements by driver contributory factors and severity 2008
Administration's paper on review of public light bus operations [CB(1)2062/07-08(01)] (30 June 2008)
Measures to Enhance Safety of Public Light Buses and School Private Light Buses
[CB(1)1149/06-07(04)] (23 March 2007)
Limitation on the Number of Public Light Buses [CB(1)1412/05-06(01)] (26 May 2006)
Measures to Enhance Road Safety and Safety of Public Light Bus (PLB) Operations
[CB(1)526/05-06(01)] (19 December 2005)
Background brief prepared by the Secretariat on measures to enhance the safety of public light bus