Q10. A mother carried a 3-year-old child. The child sat on her mother’s thigh. They only occupied one seat. Only fare of the mother was paid. Is it legal?
For the purpose of establishing the number of persons that may be carried in a vehicle, a child under the age of 3 years shall not be counted: see Regulation 53(1)(a) of Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations (Cap. 374G).
Thus, a child of 3-year-old would count towards the number of persons that may be carried in a vehicle. If all other seats are occupied, the number of persons that may be carried in a vehicle may be in excess of the number specified in the registration document of that vehicle or permitted by an excess passengers permit: see Regulation 53(3) of the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations (Cap. 374G).
Thus, the driver of the minibus may be held liable for driving in excess of the number of persons that may be carried in a vehicle and thus may be illegal in the event that the public light bus is full.
Legal obligation to wear seatbelt
However, passenger, in relation to a vehicle, is defined under the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374), Section 2 to mean any person carried in or on it other than any driver or conductor of it. Thus, a child would within the definition of “any person” and would be treated as a passenger.
Even if the number of persons that may be carried in a vehicle may not exceed the prescribed number of that vehicle, the child would also be required to be securely fastened to his seat by means of a seat belt, if any, provided for his seat because the child would still be treated as a passenger.
Thus, practically the child needs to occupy a seat alone.
It is customary that any child below 3-year-old does not have to pay the fare. However, it is not a legal requirement and thus a public light bus company can still collect fares on any passenger below the age of 3 at its own discretion. There is no legal entitlement for the passenger of any age to be exempted from paying fare.