Time to get tough on traffic violators

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Time to get tough on traffic violators

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We often find cars with stickers on the rear window. They contain messages about inexperienced drivers, babies or pregnant women in the car. The most common ones are “Novice Driver” or “Baby On Board,” but you can find various stickers with witty lines: “I Got My License Yesterday,” “I May Go In Reverse If I Get Nervous,” “Only Child in Five Generations: Help Us Carry On the Family Line,” and “I Can’t Go Any Faster.” Clever lines make you smile and be more considerate.

However, some signs are inappropriate: “Tough Bros On Board,” “Inexperienced and Reckless,” “Honk and Fight.” Recently, I saw a sign that said, “I am Afraid of Myself.” This is hardly witty and sounds like a threat to other drivers.

Cars can be deadly weapons. There are 28,263,000 people with driver’s licenses in Korea, and the number of traffic violation cases is astronomical. Last year, 11,387,088 drivers were convicted, remitted to a summary trial or fined. Unmanned sensors such as the cameras that photograph speeders caught 9,653,741 violators. A dominant number of violators were issued fine stickers. Drivers who don’t wear seat belts are fined 30,000 won ($26.52), and those who use cellphones while driving are subject to 60,000 won in fines. Those who drive 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) over the speed limit are subject to 120,000 won in fines.

Not so long ago, raising the traffic-related fines was discussed, but the idea was scrapped because of opposition. When I asked the ministry of security and public administration, they explained that an attendee from the National Police Agency came up with the idea. However, the NPA claimed that increasing fines was neither discussed nor reviewed. They seem to be concerned of criticism that the government was trying to make up for the shortage of tax sources by raising traffic violation penalties.

Nevertheless, not all traffic violations are the same. Violators that can harm the safety of others should be fined heavily. The fine for not wearing a seat belt has been 30,000 won for 18 years, but the consequence of not wearing a seat belt only involves the violator. However, using a cellphone while driving is a completely different matter. It could lead to the injury and death of others, and the fine for such violations should be increased drastically. Economists say that the external cost should be taken into account, and the punishment for using a cellphone while driving should be increased as it is equivalent to driving under the influence of alcohol, with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1 percent (according to “Economics Sketch” by Kim Yeong-uk). The rule of accountability does not just apply to traffic violation fines. In our society, there are so many cases of undermining other people’s happiness by pursuing one’s own good.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Noh Jae-hyun

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