Seniors at risk walking village roads

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Seniors at risk walking village roads

Seventy-four-year-old Lee met tragedy on her way home from work.

After leaving her job at a farm in Janghyeon-ri in Namayngju, Gyeonggi, on a Monday afternoon, the elderly woman took her usual route - jaywalking across the cars-only roads. And one hit her. The driver tried to stamp on his brakes, but he was too late. Lee was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died before midnight.

The number of old people struck and killed by motor vehicles on small village roadways without pedestrian lanes is on the rise in Korea, and it’s posing a serious social concern. Nearly 1,000 senior citizens living in villages lose their lives simply by crossing the streets every year, according to the National Police Agency.

Police said car accidents killed 987 people aged over 65 on small roads, and 90 percent of them were killed when they were crossing the streets.

Last year, traffic accidents of all kinds killed 5,838 people in Korea. Nearly a third of them, or 1,826 people, were senior citizens, and 54.1 percent of those victims were pedestrians, the agency said.

Critics have said that the Korean traffic system doesn’t recognize the rapid graying of society, and that the government must take measures to protect its senior citizens.

In response, ahead of Parents’ Day on Saturday, the National Police Agency yesterday announced a package of measures that aim to halve the number of seniors’ deaths by car accident. The measures include putting “slow down” signs on village roads, and installing additional streetlights.

Police said they will cluster the precautionary measures around areas frequented by older Koreans, including senior centers and neighborhood parks. In addition, traffic police will be dispatched to those areas to crack down on speeding drivers.

Police said another problem is that many cars simply do not spot cultivators - farming equipment driven by many elderly farmers - until it is too late. “Police will soon designate a day on which police officers will visit elderly citizens and ask farmers to put warning lights on their cultivators,” National Police Agency Commissioner Kang Hee-rak said.

Others are advocating more extreme measures. In February, an 80-year-old man surnamed Cho was killed when he was hit by a car while driving his four-wheeled motorbike, another vehicle favored by many villagers. A police official who said old age impairs the ability to drive has suggested a plan to ask people older than 65 to turn in their licenses.


By Kang In-sik [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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