LC Paper No. CB(1) 695/98-99(01)
Legislative Council Panel on Transport
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998
This paper informs Members on the details of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998 which is scheduled to be introduced to the LegCo for first reading on 2 December 1998.
2. The Amendment Bill includes three sets of legislative amendments which seeks to:
- Tighten the drink driving legislation by lowering the alcohol concentration limits for blood, breath and urine and streamline the drink driving enforcement procedures to enable the Police to carry out their duties more effectively;
- Put School Private Light Buses under the Passenger Service Licence Scheme; and
- Rectify the present collection of fees arrangement for management contracts of parking meters and vehicle examination centre, which are technically at variance with the provisions of the Public Finance Ordinance.
3.These were items rolled-over from the 1997/98 session because they were not considered to be essential items at that time.
I Drink Driving
4. The proposed legislative amendments will achieve the following objectives -
- the prescribed alcohol concentration limit will be tightened by lowering the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml, and correspondingly lower the limits of breath from 35 to 22 per 100ml and urine from 107mg to 67mg per 100ml.
- as a result of lowering the prescribed limit, corresponding amendments will be made to lower the limit below which a suspect is allowed to replace his breath specimen with blood and urine specimen;
- apart from medical practitioners, nurses will be allowed to take blood specimens from drink driving suspects;
- the refusal of providing blood specimen can be made at police stations in addition to hospitals;
- breath specimen can be taken at traffic police offices and mobile vehicles to be designated as "breath test centres" by the Commissioner of Police in addition to police stations and hospitals; and
- the inconsistency of the Chinese and English texts in Section 39(B) and 39(C) of the existing legislation will be rectified.
5. Current legislation on drink driving is based on Section 39 of the Road Traffic Ordinance, which was amended in 1995 to -
- prescribe a legal limit of alcohol concentration in a driver's blood, urine and breath; and
- impose a legal obligation on drivers to provide samples of blood, urine or breath for testing under specified circumstances.
6. The current alcohol concentration limits and our proposed limits are illustrated in Table A.
Table A - Prescribed Legal Limits of Alcohol Content
|Current prescribed limits of |
permitted alcohol content
|Proposed prescribed limits of |
permitted alcohol content
|80 mg/100 ml|
35 /100 ml
107 mg/100 ml
|50 mg/100 ml|
22 /100 ml
67 mg/100 ml
The existing Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 80mg for most people would equate to about three to four cans of mild beer or 3 small glasses of wine in the first hour. The more stringent 50mg threshold for most people would equate to about two cans of mild beer or 11
small glasses of wine in the first hour.
7. In considering the legal limit of BAC, it is noted that the two most commonly adopted limits in overseas countries are 50mg/100ml and 80mg/100ml of blood: -
- Countries adopting the 80 mg/100 ml limit : Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA *(13 states).
- Countries adopting the 50 mg/100 ml limit : Australia, Finland, France, Greece, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Yugoslavia.
8. When the BAC limit was first introduced in Hong Kong, some members of the Legislative Council Bills Committee suggested that a tighter limit should be adopted to provide a stronger deterrent effect. However, the less stringent standard was finally adopted as it was considered to be a reasonable starting point for introducing such standards into Hong Kong. Now that the BAC limit has been implemented for more than two years, we consider that it is an appropriate time to review whether the limit should be changed.
9. The implementation of drink driving legislation has put across the essential message to the public that drink and drive should not mix. Statistics show that there was a 7% reduction over a two year period (1996 and 1997) in night-time accidents resulting in fatalities and serious injuries when compared with accident figures prior to the introduction of the BAC limit, as indicated in Table B below.
Table B - Number of Night-time Fatal and Seriously injured Accidents
|Number||% change as compared with previous year
|Before the Introduction of BAC Limit
|After the Introduction of BAC Limit
Note : "night-time" refers to hours 20:00 - 08:00 the next day
The Police consider that further tightening of the prescribed alcohol concentration limits will reinforce the message and promote greater awareness of road safety.
10. Although the percentage of alcohol-related accidents out of the total number of all-day accidents in Hong Kong is relatively small (only 3.7% in 1997), one out of every four drivers killed in an accident in 1997 had consumed alcohol before the accident. Besides, the danger is not only to drivers, but also to pedestrians and passengers. During the period between 15 December 1995 to 30 June 1998, 28 drivers killed have been found to have consumed alcohol, but at the same time in accidents involving drinking and driving, 6 non-drinking drivers, 19 passengers and 13 pedestrians were killed.
11. Since the introduction of prescribed limits in December 1995, Police carried out a total of 38,941 alcohol screening tests for drivers involved in traffic accidents. The results are shown in Table C below.
Table C - Results of Screening Tests for Drivers
Involved in Traffic Accidents (15.12.95 - 31.7.98)
|Test Result (mg/100 ml blood)
||No. of Drivers
|Drivers Not Taken Any Alcohol
|Tests Cannot be Applied|
(i.e. drivers refused or failed to blow)
|Drivers Taken Some Alcohol
|Below legal limit|
(1 mg - 50 mg)
(51 mg - 80 mg)
Above legal limit
(81 mg & above)
Of the 3,499 drivers who were found to have consumed alcohol, more than half (1,859 cases) had BAC above the current legal limit of 80mg/100ml of blood limit. This is clear indication that some drivers still have difficulties in moderating their drinking habits. Based on the statistics in Table C, if the BAC limit is tightened to 50mg/100ml of blood, it will catch an extra 496 cases, increasing the proportion of alcohol drinking drivers caught within the legal limit from one half to two-thirds of all the cases.
12. Tightening the limit does not mean banning casual/social alcohol consumption. For those who want to drink, public transport alternatives are always an option.
International Trend and Overseas Research
13. A note comparing drink-driving statistics elsewhere with Hong Kong is shown at Annex A. It is noted that the drink driving is less of a problem amongst Asian countries, but Hong Kong has a relatively high percentage of alcohol-related driver fatalities (10%) than other Asian countries like Singapore and Japan.
14. The world-wide trend is towards tightening the legal alcohol limit, as one way of separating drinking and driving. Furthermore, overseas medical bodies and road safety authorities, such as the World Medical Association and the European Commission, strongly recommend a lower BAC limit of 50mg. The World Medical Association has also adopted the BAC limit of 50mg as an international standard.
15. Research in Australia indicates that the risk of being involved in a crash gradually increases at each BAC level, but rises very rapidly after a driver reaches or exceeds the 80mg level compared to drivers at zero level:
(mg/100ml of blood)
|Risk of being involved |
in a crash (times higher than normal)
The research also indicates that a change in the legal limit from 80 to 50 mg/100ml of blood in the provinces of New South Wales and Queensland resulted in a reduction in night-time accidents (about 4% in fatalities and 8% in injuries).
16. Imposing a more stringent standard will also deter potentially dangerous drink driving behaviour. The research in Australia indicates that, with a lower BAC limit, drivers are more likely to keep a mental count of the number of drinks consumed and thereby stay within the limit. This would help moderate their drinking behaviour and promote safe driving. The 50mg limit is hence a stronger preventive measure than the 80mg limit.
17. It is recommended that we should propose to lower the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml, and correspondingly lower the limits of breath from 35 to 22 per 100ml and urine from 107mg to 67mg per 100ml. These measures will strengthen our road safety programme and are in line with international trends.
18. In section 39(D)2 of the existing legislation, when the alcohol concentration of a person's breath specimen exceeds the prescribed limit of 35 but contain less than 50 of alcohol in 100 ml of breath, police officer will give the person an option to replace the breath specimen with a specimen of blood or urine. The 15 tolerance is to avoid any doubt on the reading by giving some allowance on the accuracy of the equipment. With the proposed lowering of the prescribed limit for breath to 22 , the limit of 50 in section 39(D)2 should also be lowered to 37 (22 +
Proposed Measures to Streamline Enforcement Procedures
19. A brief description of the current enforcement procedures is set out in Annex B. Following an internal review, the Commissioner of Police proposed the following changes to improve on the efficiency of the enforcement procedures.
(i) To allow nurses to take blood specimens
20. The current legislation stipulates that a blood sample can only be taken at a hospital by a registered doctor. Experience has shown that it usually takes 30-60 minutes for the Police to obtain the service of a doctor in a hospital for this procedure. As the alcohol content in the body decreases with time, it is important that blood samples are taken as early as possible. One simple way to achieve efficiency is to allow nurses, who are competent to take blood sample, to do the work. Accordingly, it is recommended to amend the law to also allow nurses (both registered and enrolled nurses) to take blood sample at the hospital for suspects of drink driving.
(ii) To allow refusal of providing blood specimen be made at a police station
21. Under the current legislation, the Police can only put the request for a blood sample to a suspect at a hospital. Thus, the suspect must be brought to a hospital to confirm his refusal to provide a specimen, even though he may have refused to give a blood sample at the scene or police station. To streamline procedures, it is recommended to amend the law so that the request to provide a specimen of blood and the refusal to do so can also be made at a police station. The actual taking of blood, if the suspect agrees, will still have to be done at a hospital.
(iii) To allow breath specimen to be taken at designated centres
22. Under the current legislation, the requirement to provide breath specimens for evidential analysis has to be made at a police station or a hospital. Due to the geographical constraints of some regions, it would improve efficiency if some evidential breath analysing instruments can be installed at Traffic Police Offices or mobile vehicles to facilitate enforcement action. Department of Justice, however, has advised that Traffic Police Office and mobile vehicles do not fall into the definition of "Police Stations". It is recommended to amend the law to empower the Commissioner of Police to designate these offices and mobile vehicles as approved "breath analysis centres" by notice in the Gazette.
(iv) To rectify the inconsistency of Chinese and English text
23. In the first line of section 39B(2), it is noted that "motor vehicle" is wrongly translated as
which should read as . In the third and the fourth lines of section 39C(1), the wordings "fails to provide a specimen for the screening breath test with reasonable excuse" is wrongly translated as
, which gives an opposite interpretation of the legislation. This section would be replaced by .
24. These proposals had been put to the Transport Advisory Committee in December 1997 and the PLC Transport Panel in January 1998 and received their support. The proposals were also supported by groups such as the Hong Kong Medical Association and the Road Safety Council which includes representatives from the Hong Kong Automobile Association, the Institute of Advanced Motoring and the Road Safety Association. They also have not attracted any adverse comments from the public or the mass media.
II Amendment to Put School Private Light Buses Under the Passenger Service Licence Scheme
25. This set of legislative amendments seeks to include the school private light buses into the Passenger Service Licence Scheme (PSLScheme), so as to streamline the regulatory mechanism over school private light buses.
26. Following several school bus accidents in 1995, an inter-departmental working group was set up to examine the safety provisions of school transport. A consultation exercise was carried out from September to December 1995 to gather views from parents, buses operators, schools and the general public on issues related to improving school transport safety.
27. Having carefully examined the feedback from the consultation exercise, a number of improvement measures were proposed. One of the proposed measures is to require private light buses providing student transport services to obtain Passenger Service Licences (PSL), which requires amendment to the Road Traffic Ordinance.
The Passenger Service License Scheme
28. At present, all public and private buses are currently under the control of the PSL Scheme. The Scheme empowers the Commissioner for Transport (C for T) to introduce new terms and conditions to enhance safety of public and private buses' operations. However, private light buses providing school transport services are not covered by the PSL scheme. Transport Department can only rely on section 21(10) of the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing) Regulations to impose licensing conditions on individual school buses. This controlling mechanism is not efficient as licensing conditions are attached to individual vehicles rather than to a category of vehicles. Whereas new safety measures to be introduced in one licence is likely to be applicable to other licensee in the same category, we can only implement the changes to individual school light bus one by one when their licenses are due for renewal.
29. The extension of PSL scheme to school private light buses will establish a more uniform regulatory mechanism and bring it in line with other bus services regulated under the PSL scheme. A new class of services will be created under the PSL in which a set of standard licensing conditions would apply to all school private light buses. This will provide C for T the flexibility in introducing changes to the licensing conditions for school private light buses that are needed in the interest of road safety.
30. Apart from the extensive consultation carried out 1995, a discussion paper on various proposals to enhance safety on school transport was submitted to and endorsed by the LegCo Transport Panel in December 1996.
31. Transport Department has recently consulted the trade in June 1998 and they have no objection to the new licensing arrangement.
III Amendments to Rectify the Collection of Fees Arrangement
32. This set of legislative amendments rectify an anomaly in the collection of fees which is technically at variance with the Public Finance Ordinance.
33. To improve efficiency, it has been an established practice for the Government to sign management contracts with private contractors to manage certain Government facilities. Usually, private contractors are responsible for the management, operation and maintenance of such facilities, and in some cases, also the collection of fees from users of the facilities. In return, the Government will pay these contractors an agreed sum of management fees.
34. The Government is currently engaging in two management contracts for parking meters and the New Kowloon Bay Vehicle Examination Centre. Under the conditions set out in the management contracts, fees at levels which have been gazetted under the Road Traffic Ordinance are first collected by the contractors and after the agreed sum of management charges has been deducted, the balance is submitted to the Government.
35. The Administration has recently conducted a review on the remittance arrangement and found out that such arrangement is technically at variance with the Public Finance Ordinance (PFO). Under the PFO, gazetted fees are General Revenue and no portion of such revenue should be retained by private contractors unless it is approved under the Ordinance.
Proposed Rectification Measures
36. To rectify this technical difficulty , we propose to amend the Road Traffic Ordinance to specify that the portion of fees collected by an operator of parking meters or of a vehicle examination centre, which is equivalent to the remuneration of the operator as stated in the management contracts, can be retained by the operators subject to the terms of the management contract with the Government.
37. Our plan is to submit the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998 containing the above three sets of legislative proposals LegCo for first reading on 2 December 1998. Members are requested to note the contents of this paper.
* The BAC limit in USA varies between 100 and 80mg in different States
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