Q9. Is it permissible for a mother to ride on a public light bus while holding her 8-month-old baby in her arms?
Yes, she can.
There are no provisions under the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374D) which prohibit a mother from bringing a 8-month-old baby onto the a public light bus and carry it with her arms ride.
Not counting towards maximum number of passengers
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, an 8-month-old baby would not count towards the maximum number of passengers legally permitted.
Legal obligation to wear seatbelts
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 baby may fall within the definition of “any person” and may be treated as a passenger.
A baby as passenger would still be required to be securely fastened to his seat by means of a seat belt, if any, provided for his seat. Insofar as statutory definition is concerned, there is no differentiation between a baby and a child and an adult for the purpose of the meaning of passenger. So theoretically, a baby, as a passenger riding on the public light bus, still have to wear a seat belt.
Practically speaking, since the size of a baby is too small, the baby may not be capable of being fastened by a seat belt properly. As the law would not require one to do the impossible, the legislative intent may not be that the baby is under an obligation to wear a seat belt.
Parent’s or care-taker’s duty of care to the baby
Practically speaking, it is also quite rare that the parent or care-taker of the baby would allow the baby to sit on a separate seat on his or her own. Thus, the problem of baby wearing seat belt may not arise.
Under the common law of negligence, a parent owed a duty of care to the baby and is expected to exercise reasonable care and skill to ensure the safety of the infant on a public light bus. To allow a baby to sit separately may constitute negligence if the seat belt is not adequate to prevent baby from throwing forward or to some other directions.
Thus, a mother holding her 8-month-old baby with arms can ride on the public light bus.