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May 19th, 2015:

Illegal Idling is Hong Kong’s least-enforced minor infraction, data show

Environmentalists have called on local authorities to step up action against drivers who idle their engines while stopped, after a South China Morning Post analysis of government data showed the practice attracted the least amount of law enforcement attention among an array of minor offences.

Out of Hong Kong’s 680,000 licensed, non-government-owned vehicles excluding buses, authorities last year issued 46 fixed penalty notices after traffic wardens timed 1,127 vehicles.

Between December 2011, when the ban came into effect, and November 2013, officers timed 3,070 vehicles and issued 86 fixed penalty notices.

Motorists are prosecuted if they allow their engines to idle for more than three minutes after receiving a warning.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said the number of exclusions – including hot weather and queuing taxis – might have explained the difficulty traffic wardens faced in enforcing the ban. Still, he said more focus would be needed in order to tackle air pollution.

“The law exists in name rather than in substance,” said Chan, who is vice-chairman of the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel. “The half-hearted approach could be a result of the ordinance being a rather unpopular one, especially for the transport sector and the wealthier class of society.”

Clean Air Network campaign manager Patrick Fung Kin-wai said the curb on illegally idled engines played a “secondary role” in improving air quality.

“More awareness is needed; more law enforcement is needed too,” he said.

The Post also found that police issued tickets to about 1.06 million drivers last year for illegal parking. It was a slight rise over the 1.02 million tickets handed out for the offence in 2013.

Some 20,015 pedestrians were fined for road safety offences last year, including jaywalking, ignoring the directions of a police officer and taking too long to cross the road. That was down from the 23,600 pedestrians fined in 2013.

Smoking in unauthorised places was another common minor offence, with more than 8,000 people fined last year.

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