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LCQ20: Safety of school transport vehicles
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     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Hok-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (February 11):


Question:

     Existing legislation stipulates that, for the purpose of establishing the number of persons that may be carried in a vehicle, three children aged three years or above who do not exceed 1.3 metres in height shall be counted as two persons. It has been reported that some school transport vehicles ("STVs") carrying primary and kindergarten pupils are often seriously overloaded. For example, some STVs which carry 31 pupils only have 15 seats for the pupils to sit. Moreover, traffic accidents involving STVs happen from time to time, arousing concern about the safety of STVs. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council :

(a) of the number of cases in which prosecution was instituted by the Police against overloading of STVs in each of the past three years;

(b) how the authorities monitor whether STVs are overloaded and take enforcement actions; and

(c) what measures are in place to enhance the safety of STVs and whether it will stipulate that all seats of newly-registered STVs shall be installed with seat belts; if not, of the reasons for that?


Reply:

President,


     Currently, two types of student service vehicles (SSVs), namely school buses and school private light buses, provide student transport services in Hong Kong. We have all along attached great importance to the safety of SSVs.

     My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows :

(a)&(b) Sections 53 and 61 of the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations (Cap. 374G) stipulate that any person who without reasonable excuse contravenes the provisions on the number of persons that may be carried in a vehicle commits an offence, and is liable on first conviction to a fine of $5,000 and imprisonment for 3 months, and to a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for 6 months on subsequent convictions. In addition, "overloading of passengers" is an offence punishable by a fixed penalty of $450.

     The Police takes active enforcement actions against overloading by drivers of all types of vehicles, including SSVs. The Police have also included overloading as a targeted offence in their daily enforcement actions to step up their efforts to combat the offence. In addition, the Transport Department (TD) writes to SSV operators before the end of summer holiday every year to remind them of the importance of safety, including the prohibition of overloading.

     The statistics on prosecutions instituted by the Police against overloading cover all types of vehicles. The respective numbers of such cases in the past three years are as follows :

Year 2006 1,486
Year 2007 1,304
Year 2008 1,256

     Since the Police do not maintain a breakdown of the prosecutions by vehicle type, we are unable to provide the figures of prosecution cases involving SSVs .

(c) To further enhance the safety of SSVs, the Commissioner for Transport has revised the conditions of the Passenger Service Licence issued to SSVs to require the provision of escorts on SSVs that serve kindergartens or primary school pupils. Furthermore, we have introduced legislation to require all SSVs registered on or after May 1 this year to install "safer seats" íV strong, fire-resistant and closely spaced seats with high and energy-absorbing seat backs. The design of such seats has proven effective in protecting school children, as they can reduce the risk of students being thrown out of their seats and the extent of their injuries in vehicle collisions.

     Apart from active enforcement, the Police will continue to enhance the safety awareness among SSV drivers through education and publicity. For example, the Police launch a territory-wide campaign to promote school transport safety in August and September every year. Regional Road Safety Teams give out promotional leaflets in various districts to remind SSV drivers, teachers and parents of student transport safety.  The Police also give talks in schools to educate students on safety precautions when travelling on SSVs.

     Regarding the proposed use of seat belts on SSVs, the practice varies among different countries. We will keep a close watch over the standards of seat belts on SSVs and related practices abroad.

     TD is pleased to offer advice to SSV owners who would like to purchase new vehicles installed with both safer seats and seat belts, or to retrofit seat belts on existing SSVs, in order to help them select the appropriate vehicles or install seat belts that are technically feasible and meet the standards. We will study the feasibility of mandatory installation of seat belts on SSVs, including implementation details such as the legal liability in the event of students not wearing seat belts on SSVs.

     TD will continue to disseminate the above message to the SSV trade at its regular meetings with the trade.

Ends/Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:14

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