Point to a deer and call it a horse - the strange case of minibus drivers in HK

Taxi drivers and minibus (they carry 16 people and are effectively large taxis) drivers are up in arms against proposed legislation to increase penalties for driving through red lights. That the legislation is under review is due to a series of accidents in the past 18 months in which many people have been killed or injured. One particularly nasty accident involved two minibuses, one of which had driven straight through a red light and duly hit another one, resulting in 20 casualties.

The current penalty for driving through a green light is 3 penalty points and a fine of 57 US dollars. The proposed increase would result in 5 penalty pints and a fine of 77 US dollars. (The government shelved its original plan to impose an 8 point penalty under pressure from taxi and minibus drivers.) A driver here receives a ban if he accumulates 15 points in a two-year period.

The fine for littering or spitting is around 200 US dollars.

Minibus and taxi drivers want hanging traffic lights, and flashing green lights before the amber light, to give drivers more time to stop. Why exactly they should be pressing for these measures is unclear to me, who drives the same roads as these people, and finds stopping time not to be an issue. And why should it be in a city where the urban speed limit of 50kmh (30mph) means that drivers that observe the speed limits can stop quite easily before the light changes to red?

[QUOTE=roger thornhill]
The current penalty for driving through a green light is 3 penalty points and a fine of 57 US dollars. QUOTE]

I have heard traffic there can be nasty, now I know why. :dubious:


Ah, but I thought I made it clear that you get 5 pints for driving for a green light.

Just as well I don’t have to write for a living

As a minor nitpick, I should point out that theoretically, speed has no bearing on traffic light safety. Yellow means “stop if it is safe to do so”, so at 80kmh, whilst it takes longer to stop, it also takes less time to sail safely through the intersection. The way the “if it is safe to do so” clause is implemented will vary with speed, but the definition does not. You could theoretically install traffic lights on an autobahn and have them remain easy to obey.
Aside from that, I agree with the OP. What are these minibus drivers on?? If an amber light is not enough warning for you, you shouldn’t be on the road. The world over, people manage to operate semi trucks, tourist coaches, and even light rail vehicles with their low adhesion, and they have no problem obeying traffic lights. Why should HK minibus drivers get special treatment? I’ve been on those things in HK, they look as easy to drive as the average car.

Those HK fines are freaky too. They’re incredibly low. Just a slap on the wrist.

It’s difficult perhaps to appreciate how much the tail wags the dog here. When I started working for my present company (where I look after all the English-language communications), a colleague had prepared a press release celebrating the company’s being included on a NY-based sustainability index. The release was essentially a copy and paste job derived from the NY body’s criteria for inclusion on the index. The point that stood out at once concerned “whistleblowing”. I really wanted to leave it in (“XYZ Company is actively committed to whistleblowing”), but obviously couldn’t. What I did do, though, was ask the fellow who cobbled together the release whether he knew what whistleblowing meant. He didn’t. The scary thing wasn’t his ignorance (quite understandable given the langauge barrier and more significantly the cultural barrier), but the fact that he was prepared (accustomed?) to include stuff when he had no idea what it meant.

Ummm… well, you do need to adjust the timing of the yellow lights to take speed into account. I remember working this out in considerable detail once. The distance at which you can safely continue through the intersection before the light goes green the other way will depend proportionally on the length of the yellow light (from the time it goes yellow till the time the other way goes green) and the speed of your travel.

Stopping distance, on the other hand, has nothing fundamentally to do with the length of the yellow light, but will vary with the SQUARE of the speed of your travel. (Assuming that decceleration due to braking will be constant for a particular vehicle given the condition of its brake pads, the graph of velocity over time will be a right angle triangle whose height is initial speed and length will be stopping time. Stopping distance will be in proportion with the area of the triangle, which will quadruple if the height of the triangle doubles, etcetera.)

The upshot of all this is, if you are travelling too fast compared to the length the yellow lights have been set for, you could easily find yourself in a ‘danger zone’ where the light turns yellow, and you cannot safely either come to a stop or continue to sail through. Therefore… don’t speed.
I know this isn’t really relevant to the OP, but I just had to share my brilliant analysis. :wink: