From the Desk of Ir Edgar C P Kwan
Member, Election Committee
24th November 1998
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998 Related to Alcohol Consumption on Drink Driving
The captioned Amendment Bill will be introduced to the Legislative Council on 2 December 1998.
I am writing to request you to vote "NO"
A Position Paper
on the Bill is attached herewith for your detailed reference.
I am pleased to voice my opinion freely, in my capacity as an ordinary Hong Kong citizen enjoying freedom of speech, and not in any other capacities.
The Amendment Bill adversely affects all walks of life, whether grass-root, middle class, professional, or businessmen. A casual drink
at a streetside food-stall, or, a couple of toasts to the host
at cocktail reception, are, all of a sudden, transformed into a criminal offence.
No Bill ever, in the past, so unduly interferes with the freedom to enjoy normal social life, i.e.
Please vote "NO"
against the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill for Amendments Related to Drink Driving.
Ir Edgar C P KwanAttachment: Position Paper (5 pages)
Position Paper on Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998
AMENDMENTS RELATED TO DRINK DRIVING
To be introduced to Legislative Council on
2 December 1998
Existing limit of 80 units to be reduced to 50 units
(1 unit = 1 milligram of alcohol per 100 ml of blood)
1. The existing limit (80 units), for the purposes of attracting, sustaining and enhancing general public awareness regarding drink driving has proven to be very successful. This implies that further tightening is unnecessary and not justifiable. Unless the Government has evidence to show that drink driving is worsening, there is no justification for tightening the law.
2. Since the introduction of the existing Bill a few years ago the momentum of improvement is still growing, more time should therefore be allowed to appreciate the total thrust of the Bill impact. It is therefore premature at this stage to tighten the limit. Any premature amendment will inevitably nullify or undermine part of the thrust of potential improvement achievable under the current 80 limit.
3. We should study how we can best benefit from foreign country experience. In foreign countries, where drink-driving is much worse than the Hong Kong situation; why they (e.g. Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland) maintain the limit of 80 units? There must be a reason. We must identify this reason and see whether the reason also applies to Hong Kong. The most likely reason is that this is the best reasonable balance between two conflicting factors (a) deterring drink-driving and (b) unduly interfering with normal social activities. The latter includes the interfering with the right to drink responsibly at day to day business and / or personal occasions: just one pint of beer could put a driver over the limit. Such an amendment will add little to the improvement of road safety, but will have a large impact on the public's social activities and rights.
4. We must realise that the choice before us is thus the difference between 50 units and 80 units; but not a choice between 50 units and unlimited or no alcohol control at all.
5. The benefit of tightening the limit is yet to be determined and should be subject to strict proof and objective analysis. The exact effect of 50 Vs 80 units difference on traffic accidents needs to be established. The statistics of percentage contribution to drink driving accidents by different ranges of alcohol intake must be analysed to establish whether or not the specific range between 80 units and 50 units is a tremendous contributing factor, as compared with other ranges, e.g. the range between 80 units and 100 units, 100 to 200, 200 to 300 and etc.
6. Alternatively, we should consider what the Amendment will actually achieve and whether this is what was originally intended. It appears, once enacted, the Amendment will transform into a test of one's mental ability to resist drinking temptation. On the one hand, the law permits drinking prior to driving (otherwise the limit would be zero unit). On the other hand, the Amendment disallows one to drink more than 50 units. In practice, the 50 units can be readily and easily exceeded once the lips of a responsible-drinker driver are in contact with alcohol at any routine social occasion. That is, the Amendment will punish you, criminally, unless you do not drink. If this is the intention of the Amendment, the new limit should be zero alcohol consumption. Then, this is an amendment in the wrong direction. Assuming the Amendment is enacted, sometime later, are we going to amend the limit again to 30 units, then 20 units, then 10 units …… or lower? This Amendment is both paradoxical and unnecessary.
7. If we agree that, unless we do not drink, once we drink we are bound to exceed the 50 units limit, then the Amendment will inevitably leave room for a lot of wrongful criminal allegation, and injustice, in vehicle accidents. A responsible and careful driver, simply because he has taken 50 units of alcohol, will be held liable for a car accident which is entirely due to the fault of a reckless or careless driver who does not drink. Is this justice? Will the prosecution not take the easy way out by charging the innocent driver liable for the accident as the most readily available evidence is 50 units of alcohol intake; as compared with the burden to establish the real cause of the accident.
8. In the alternative, therefore, if this part of the Bill is to be amended at all, the limit should be amended to ZERO ALCOHOL consumption.
P.S. an article
"Drink-drive move 'too harsh'" from the SCMP dated 14th November 1998 is attached herewith for reference.