Illegal Hong Kong road racing comes under fire from harried Pok Fu Lam residents
Originally published at the South China Morning Post on May 20, 2016.
Sounds of screeching tyres and thundering engines slice the night air as car racers tear down Pok Fu Lam Road, a favoured spot for the illicit activity that has come under fire by local residents for creating noise and a serious safety hazard.
Illegal car racing is a longstanding practice in Hong Kong that appears to have gained traction in recent months. While police have stepped up efforts to control the problem, residents living near popular racing locations say it persists and the government needs to implement more measures to deter racers.
One 51-year-old Pok Fu Lam resident who has lived in the area for seven years said that she frequently heard racers at night, sometimes as often as twice a week.
“It just frightens me. It’s scary what these guys are doing,” said Nicole Izsak, who has three children. “We get woken up at night because it’s so loud. These guys could lose control. They’re driving at crazy speeds.”
Andrew Smyth, a 58-year-old Pok Fu Lam resident who has lived there for 15 years, echoed Izsak’s sentiments.
“It’s not just one or two. You might hear like a group of eight driving along,” Smyth said. “All it takes is for someone to make a mistake.”
Just this year, the city has seen a number of road racing incidents. In March, a 20-year-old newly-licensed driver was arrested after leading officers on a car chase before ramming into a police car in Tsing Yi.
A month before that, police arrested 15 people for allegedly racing along Wong Chuk Hang Road and Shek Pai Wan Road in Aberdeen.
Noise complaints relating to illegal road racing spiked last year to 102, up from 68 and 63 in 2014 and 2013, police data shows. From January to March this year, there were 45 complaints.
A police spokesman said the department would continue to “take proactive action, including intelligence-led operations” to combat illegal racing.
Police conducted 584 operations against the practice last year, up from 289 in 2014 and 362 in 2013. Officers arrested 14 people and detained 352 vehicles for examination last year. From January to March this year, they conducted 124 operations and detained 74 vehicles.
“Effective speed detection devices, including laser guns, will continue to be deployed to enhance our law enforcement ability,” the spokesman said.
Those convicted of illegal speed racing can be fined HK$10,000 and jailed for 12 months. Dangerous driving can lead to a HK$25,000 fine, 10 driving offence points, a disqualification period of at least six months and three years in prison.
In addition to more anti-racing operations, Pok Fu Lam district councillor Paul Zimmerman said more speed enforcement cameras should be set up along affected areas like Pok Fu Lam Road and Victoria Road.
Zimmerman, who brought up the issue of car racing at a Southern district council transport committee meeting in February, said wide and long roads needed to be regulated because they lent themselves to speeding, not only by racers.
“Pok Fu Lam Road needs them. It’s a road that promotes racing in the sense of the way it’s designed,” Zimmerman said.
“It can be quite dangerous. There have been accidents before.”
Another Southern district councillor, Chan Lee Pui-ying, told the same meeting that suitable areas should be designated for lawful motor racing to create a safe, legal alternative for those who want to race.
A spokesman for the Transport Department said there were currently three speed enforcement cameras along Pok Fu Lam Road and Aberdeen Praya Road, and there were no plans to install more. The department also does not keep track of the number of accidents related to illegal road racing.
“Having reviewed the traffic conditions of Pok Fu Lam Road and Victoria Road, police and the Transport Department do not consider there is a need to install additional [cameras[,” a spokesman said in an email. “Police will continue to strengthen enforcement action to combat illegal racing.”