We take a closer look at the recurring problem of illegal racing in Sai Kung.
It’s 3 am and residents are abruptly woken by the revving of car engines. For those living close to the roads surrounding the Sai Kung country park this is a common occurrence that has been happening for years. However, in recent months it would appear that the frequency in which illegal racing on public roads in the area has significantly increased.
Catherine, a local resident living on Yan Yee Road, said that the problem has been “happening for years” but that, of late, there “seems to be increased amount of racers”. Another resident, Caroline who lives in Tso Wo Hang village which is located directly on Tai Mong Tsai Road agrees. “I used to be aware of the races happening on a Friday or Saturday night, but recently they have become more frequent and less predictable, sometimes I hear them in the early hours of the morning and now it can be any day of the week – even a Monday or Tuesday”.
Street car racing on public roads is a phenomenon that has been happening across the globe for decades and Hong Kong, with its streets full of expensive cars is no exception. Racing on any road, unless as part of an organised, consented event is illegal and liable to a fine of $10,000 and 12 months imprisonment according to the Hong Kong government Road Traffic Ordinance Legislation.
This doesn’t seem to deter the racers and there are hotspots for meet ups across Kowloon and the New Territories. The area around Sai Kung country park and Clearwater Bay seem particularly popular. “Perhaps in part because of the complexity of the roads, with their tight bends and dips, which prove a more challenging and exciting drive for the racers” suggests Caroline.
She says that the impact on residents is two fold – “noise pollution is a big factor, but ultimately the biggest issue is the potential danger that the racers cause to other drivers and pedestrians out and about after dark”. Tso Wo Hang village lies on a bend on Tsai Mong Tsai Road, Caroline tells me that the racers come past the village very fast. “I worry when my husband or son come home late at night in case they should happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
She recalls one Sunday morning when she was “woken with a loud bang as a car driving too fast flew across the pavement and crashed into the village barrier, the other racers didn’t stop” – only the driver was injured on this occasion. Catherine adds that “there are often large cows and bulls on the road, if one of the cars swerves or hits one of the animals there will be carnage”.
Residents stress that they have reported incidents to the police on many occasions but by the time the police arrive it is usually too late and the racers have moved on.
Catherine has witnessed the racing on a number of occasions. “I’ve seen them many times and had three racers behind me before, not supercars but the souped-up Honda gang. On one occasion at about 1am they were trying to overtake me on the bend at 198 Tai Mong Tsai, I called the police when I got home and they said they’d go out but as soon as it goes over the radio the racers disappear”.
Senior Inspector, Michael Lai of Sai Kung Police Force commented that in late November the force have jointly mounted an operation with Traffic Kowloon East but that “so far no road racing is noted but some speeding cases were detected”. The Senior Inspector said that he was aware of “reports of noise complaints and police also noticed some complaints on the Internet”.
Caroline says that residents in her village are keen for two simple solutions – “Firstly, we would like to see speed bumps on Tai Mong Tsai Road at the approach to Tso Wo Hang village, we also feel that it would make sense for the police to the install permanent speed cameras in strategic places along Tai Mong Tsai Road”.
Catherine fears that a solution will come too late adding, “It will take a fatal collision on the road before anything will be done about the racers”. She suggests that residents report incidents of racing to the police in the hope that more action will be taken.
Sai Kung police can be contacted on 3661 1630. The local police station is located at 1 Po Tung Road, Sai Kung.