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Driver mental health checks floated to address safety fears after fatal Hong Kong bus crash

The mental health of Hong Kong bus drivers should be assessed and more speed cameras installed on dangerous sections of road to enhance transport safety, lawmakers and district councillors urged on Tuesday.

Their recommendations came after a bus crash in Tai Po on Saturday left 19 people dead and more than 60 injured in Hong Kong’s deadliest traffic accident in more than a decade.

The driver of the KMB double-decker, Chan Ho-ming, was remanded in custody and appeared at Fanling Court on Tuesday accused of dangerous driving causing death.

Legislative Council member Lam Cheuk-ting told a radio show that bus companies should take a leaf out of the book of the city’s uniformed services by considering the psychological health of candidates when hiring.

“Bus companies mainly look at driving and health records when recruiting drivers, not their emotional and mental well-being,” he said.

“Some uniformed groups have such requirements, especially when their job is related to safety.”

It would not be costly to carry out such assessments, Lam said, since questionnaires for the purpose prepared by international experts were readily available.

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“Of course you need some experts to assess the results, but the safety of about 100 people is at stake,” he said.

Legislator Ben Chan Han-pan said there was a severe manpower shortage in the transport industry. Drivers needed to be treated better even if it meant higher fares, he said.

Chan believed commuters would be understanding of fare increases if they would help improve safety, but bus companies would need to ensure any hikes worked to the benefit of drivers.

Lam proposed the government use its dividends in the MTR Corporation to subsidise fare rises, which would give bus companies more leeway to adjust salaries.

Tai Po district councillor Chan Siu-kuen, appearing on the same radio show, spoke of the need to install speed cameras at danger zones and speeding black spots.

Empty gestures won’t do – government and transport executives need to put safety before bottom line

He said he had told police last year to install a speed detector in the area where Saturday’s fatal bus accident took place. He would visit the scene with Transport Department officers to see how to improve and repair the affected bus stop, he said.

Ben Chan recommended putting drivers frequently found speeding on a monitoring list.

Other ideas floated included installing seat belts on all bus seats, along with cameras.

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