[Viewpoint] Step up legislation to protect our roads

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[Viewpoint] Step up legislation to protect our roads

The traffic accident that happened on the Route 25 in Euiseong County, North Gyeongsang Province on May 1 has reminded all of us how careless mistake while driving could bring a tragic result. The truck driver was watching Digital Media Broadcasting (DMB) while driving and hit the members of the cycling team on training. Three were killed and four were injured in the accident.

The Korea Transportation Safety Authority has been constantly warning about the danger of DMB viewing while driving through various channels. In March, the authority conducted an actual automobile crash test that illustrated that traffic accident as a result of careless driving habits, including DMB viewing while driving in high speed, could lead to severe injury and death. Even when the seatbelt is fastened and the airbag is inflated properly, the probability of severe injury is 99 percent as the impact from the collision is tremendous. Watching DMB while driving in high speed will bring a fatal outcome to life regardless of other safety measures.

When you are watching DMB while driving, the effect is similar to 0.08 percent blood alcohol level, which is higher than 0.05 percent defined by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTS) as driving under influence of alcohol. The possibility of serious injury in traffic accident is four times higher. Say you drive at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour and watch DMB. If the driver keeps the eyes off from the road for two seconds, it is like driving 110 meters, or halfway through a soccer field, with eyes closed. Therefore, watching DMB is even more dangerous than drunk driving.

While DMB viewing on a moving vehicle poses serious danger, drivers’ traffic safety awareness is still very low. According to a recent survey by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, 93 percent of the drivers consider watching DMB while driving was dangerous, but more than one third responded they actually view DMB while driving frequently or occasionally. Improvement in traffic safety awareness and driving habit is an urgent task.

Since a large number of Koreans use mass transit, it is more desperate and urgent for the drivers of commercial vehicles, including buses and taxis, to be especially aware of traffic safety. Accidents involving mass transit may result in serious casualty. The drivers of commercial vehicles need to have a sense of mission and responsibility that lives and properties of unspecified individuals are on their hands. Drivers must keep in mind that watching DMB on a moving vehicle could kill valuable lives. The authorities may want to consider a restriction that the DMB device installed on commercial vehicles can only provide traffic information.

The most important element in traffic safety is the safety awareness of the drivers, but appropriate traffic laws and system can encourage safe driving habits effectively. A partial revision on the Road Traffic Act prohibits watching DMB while driving, but as it is an instructive regulation without punishment, there is no legal force to ban DMB viewing. In the United Kingdom and the United States, watching DMB while driving a vehicle is strictly prohibited and violation is subject to a fine.

Because of the accident that could have been prevented, valuable lives of young girls training towards their dream were killed. We must make sure no more tragic accident happens from now. While related laws need to be legislated and enforced, we all need to strengthen our traffic safety awareness that watching DMB while driving is never safe. Enhanced awareness and a pledge for safe driving habit will protect the lives of the driver, the family and all of us from careless accidents.

Translation by Korea JoongAng Daily staff

*The author is the president of The Korea Transportation Safety Authority.
By Chung Il-young
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