LC Paper No. CB(1) 713/98-99(01)
Government Response to the Position Paper
submitted by Mr Ir Edgar C P Kwan in respect
of Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998
Set out below is the Administration's comment on Mr Kwan's position paper.
Mr Kwan suggested that since the 80mg limit had proved successful, further tightening to 50 mg is neither necessary nor justifiable.
Since the introduction of the 80 mg Blood Alcoholic content (BAC) limit in December 1995, there has been a steady decline in night time accidents. However, the number of over-the-limit cases remained high - one in every two drivers who had been found to have consumed alcohol by the Police had exceeded the 80 mg limit in the last three years. It also remained a fact that in 1997, three out of every ten drivers killed in traffic accidents had consumed alcohol. In addition, six non-drinking drivers, 19 passengers and 13 pedestrians were killed in car accidents involving drink driving. Such statistics suggest that there is no room for complacency. The Government considers that tightening of BAC limit from 80 mg to 50 mg will help reduce traffic accidents and casualties. See also as for para. 6.
Mr Kwan suggested that the tightening of the BAC limit would nullify or undermine the potential achievement of the 80 mg limit.
The proposed tightening of BAC limit will have two effects. Firstly, it will reinforce the message that drinkers should be more careful about the amount of alcohol they drink before they drive. This will deter people from driving beyond the legal limits before they drive. Secondly, more people about 15% will be caught if the limit is tightened. This will provide stronger deterrence.
Mr Kwan suggested that as a number of overseas countries still clinged on to the 80 mg limit, there should be no reason for Hong Kong to move to 50 mg.
What we have proposed is in line with international practices. Both the World Medical Association and the European Commission recommend the 50 mg limit. Both European and Asian countries have made the decision to tighten the limit e.g. France, Germany, Belgium and Austria have all moved from 80 mg to 50 mg. The United Kingdom , in a Transport White Paper published in July 1998, noted that drink driving remained a major cause of fatal accidents and pledged to review the need to reduce BAC limit from 80 mg to 50 mg. As this is an International trend, HK will have to consider tightening the BAC limit sooner or later. The question really is whether now is a good timing to proceed.
Mr Kwan suggested that the choice was between 80 mg and 50 mg, not 50 mg and a zero BAC limit.
We agree. The Government has no plans to propose a total ban of alcoholic consumption by drivers.
Mr Kwan suggested that the exact effect of tightening of BAC limit from 80 mg to 50 mg had yet to be established.
The relationship between tightening BAC limit from 80 mg to 50 mg and reduction of traffic accidents is based on sound overseas researches. According to the London based Institute of Alcohol Studies, reduction of BAC limit from 80 mg to 50 mg in France helped reduce fatalities in traffic accidents by 4% in 1995. In Belgium, the 50 mg BAC limit reduced fatal accidents by 10% in 1995 and 11% in 1996. In Germany, a similar reduction in BAC limit resulted in a 50% reduction in alcohol related accidents in Cologne in 1998. We know that in Hong Kong, if we had adopted the tightened BAC limit of 50 mg, an additional 15% of drinker drivers would have been caught over the past three years.
Mr Kwan suggested that the proposed legislative change would in effect imposed criminal liabilities on all responsible drinker drivers.
The question is what is the right standard for use as the legally permissible standard. Both the 50 mg and 80 mg are used by overseas countries. The case for tightening is based on the following considerations:-
- The Government is not trying to totally ban drivers from the consumption of alcoholic drinks. The proposed tightening of BAC limit intends to encourage people not to drive if they have consumed an amount of alcohol which exceeds the legal limits, both for their own good and the protection of other law abiding road users.
- The tightening of limit is in line with international trend. It is based on sound researches.
- We have considered the question of whether the tightened BAC limit will cause undue hardship to the affected drinkers and have concluded that this will not be the case. Hong Kong is well served by public transport. There is no reason why drivers who have drunk more than the legal limit would have difficulties in finding an alternative mode of transport.
Mr Kwan suggested that responsible drinker drivers could be held liable for the fault or recklessness of non-drinking drivers when involved in traffic accidents.
The Police and the court will no doubt take all circumstances and factors into account before deciding on a particular course of action.
Mr Kwan suggested that the alternative to the 80 mg limit should be zero alcohol consumption.
The Government has no plans to propose a total ban of alcoholic consumption by drivers.