[Letters] One of the deadliest killersSomething happened the other morning that inspired me to write about a real problem that no one else seems to be concerned about. Every day we are inundated with media reports about problems in society. And it seems that almost every year there is some new danger that everyone thinks is going to kill us all. A few years ago it was SARS, then it was mad cow disease and last year it was the A(H1N1) virus. All of these deadly diseases have caused panic of some kind. With SARS people were afraid to travel. Two years ago fears of mad cow sent people protesting in the streets. Then last year with the influenza people were afraid to go to public places. I can understand that people want to protect themselves, and it is better to be safe than sorry, but I believe that there is a far more insidious killer out there that no one ever mentions.
Allow me to elaborate: that morning I was driving in to work as usual. I arrived at the entrance to the university where I work just as a school bus was letting off a load of students. One young man seemed to be in a great hurry, as he jumped off the bus and ran around the group of students, I assume to get to class on time. Unfortunately his route around the students took him into traffic and directly in front of my car. Fortunately I was paying attention and hit the brakes, avoiding ruining both his and my day. He didn’t even give me a second glance and proceeded to try to run to class.
With my heart pounding at the near miss, I turned into the entrance way for the university. The same student, again trying to beat the pack, jumped out past the end of the schools gates, again into the path of my moving car. Again, I was able to hit the brakes and avoid hitting him. Cursing, heart pounding; I continued my quest to enter the parking garage.
If this had been an isolated incident, then I would pass it off as one person’s reckless stupidity in trying to get to class early. Unfortunately, however, I see this type of thing all the time. Students of all ages are always walking in front of cars without any awareness of the dangerous vehicle behind them. I believe the worst culprits are middle school girls, but university students have to be a close second.
I have to wonder at this; don’t people realize how dangerous automobiles are? Did you know that in the last 20 years traffic or transportation accidents are one of largest causes of death in Korea? Furthermore, for people under the age of 30 transportation accidents have been the leading cause of death. Overall diseases kill more people, and suicide has recently become a major contributor to the death toll, but transportation and traffic accidents are still one of the biggest killers of Koreans. In fact, Korea ranks first in terms of frequency, fatality and injury severity among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Not really a ranking to be proud of.
Let’s look at some of the numbers: an average of 21 people die due to traffic accidents every day. One person is killed or injured by car accidents every one minute and 16 seconds. Most of the accidents are caused by reckless driving, speeding or drunken driving. Essentially the problem is being caused by driver negligence. This leads us to our next statistic: among the OECD countries, Korea has the highest pedestrian death rate. Most of these accidents occur on side roads and in parking lots. The number of pedestrians who die from traffic accidents is about five in every 100,000 people. If you want a number to put that into perspective, by the end of 2009, 187 people had died from the H1N1 virus, the so-called swine flu. That means about one in every 200,000 people died from the swine flu. Of course, the flu is a temporary problem, especially since most people have now been vaccinated against it. And once everyone has been vaccinated against the flu we can expect no more deaths. However there is no vaccination for cars. That means that the number of people dying will continue.
So far the death toll from the recent problems goes like this: H1N1 187; SARS 0; Mad Cow 0; Traffic accidents approximately 7,665 last year. So I ask you: what is the real problem? Shouldn’t we be concerned about what is really killing people? Schools, the government and many other organizations have rallied together to put a stop the H1N1 virus, so why can’t they do the same for traffic accidents?
I think it would not be difficult to solve this problem. The most important thing to do would be to educate people on the damage that is being done by cars and careless driving. If the government put effort into educating people as they did with the flu virus, then more people would understand the danger. If people know it is dangerous, then they will be more careful. This is especially important for parents and teachers of young children.
You may believe that the road belongs to you, or that you have the right of way, but really, in the end, if it comes down to a clash between you and a moving vehicle, who do you think will win?
Department of English Language and Literature, University of Incheon