Crossing the line is easy on roads of Seoul

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Crossing the line is easy on roads of Seoul


Lane markings on the Gyeongbu Expressway, right, are more visible at night than on the road on the left. An official from the Korea Expressway Corporation said the lines were drawn with a special paint that includes ground glass. Provided by Korea Expressway Corporation

Mr. Kim, a delivery man, had difficulty driving on a road in Gangnam, southern Seoul, last month. It was raining heavily and he could not see the lines on the road marking the lanes.

The 46-year-old squinted hard, but even the center line of the road was invisible. Suddenly he realized he had crossed into an adjacent lane. He was forced to swerve to avoid a collision with a car.

“This wasn’t the first time I had that problem on a rainy day or at night,” Kim said. “Sometimes, I’ve been stunned to see a car coming toward me from the opposite direction.”

Mr. Han, an office worker, has had a similar experience. He has found himself swerving from lane to lane unintentionally because he could not see the lines on the road.

“I heard honking from other drivers many times,” Han, 30, said.

Painted lines marking lanes are supposed to be of a special paint that contains ground glass dust for high reflectivity. But many roads in Seoul have less visible lane markings.

Research conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo shows that out of 132 painting operations conducted from 2010 to 2014, 84 cases, or 64 percent, failed to meet legal requirements. During that period, 79 companies were found to have used improper paints at least once.

According to an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, when drawing the lanes, many contractors mix general paint with the specialized kind.

“Most painting companies don’t have the expertise because they specialize in exterior painting for apartment buildings,” the official said.

An official of a painting company said the specialized paint is more expensive and you can’t tell the difference in the daytime, so contractors get away with it.

In May, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency arrested 137 workers from painting companies on charges of intentionally using inferior paint in their traffic lane jobs and profiting unjustly.

Analysts say stricter selection of contractors is needed. Under current procedures, general painting contractors can participate in the bidding for such road work.

“After getting a contract, those companies outsource the job to companies more skilled in painting,” a source familiar with the industry said.

Park Jin-hyung, a councilman on the Seoul Metropolitan Council, said qualifications for traffic lane painting should be raised and after-work inspections should be stricter.

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