[EDITORIALS]Don’t drink and driveWe welcome the National Police Agency’s decision not to continue its drunken driving checks after stopping lanes of traffic on a busy boulevard. The police agency also decided to erect a standing notice to warn drivers of speed checks by law enforcement officers, giving up ambush checking with unmanned cameras. But the police should come up with other measures or these so-called improvements in checking will encourage drunken driving and other traffic violations.
Stopping entire lanes of traffic on a busy boulevard, and forcing every driver to be tested for alcohol brings many problems. Many citizens have challenged the checks as a violation of human rights. A lawsuit has already been filed with the Constitutional Court. This checking method is against the law that allows the police to check drunken driving “only when there are considerable reasons to believe drivers are under the influence.”
Although the checking was for traffic safety and to prevent accidents, it is unacceptable to force so many people to endure the inconvenience of a major traffic jam only for the convenience of the police to catch a few drunken drivers. The checking was also not very efficient. Since the police usually put a dozen or so officers at a checkpoint for several hours, other streets were left unpatrolled. According to an estimate, the 231 police precincts in all of Korea caught approximately 410,000 cases of drunken driving in the last year. That means each police precinct caught fewer than five drunken drivers per day. Given the inconvenience to innocent motorists just to show off the checking points, the results are meager. Improving the method of checking drunken driving by the police will contribute to the maturing of society.
We are concerned that drunken driving has not decreased in spite of the previous harsh checking methods. Improving the methods should not be interpreted as leniency. Rather, the police should check drunken driving more thoroughly with newly developed and sophisticated methods. More severe punishment is also needed. Motorists must understand that they never, ever should drive a vehicle while under the influence.