Government announces new driving regulationsThe transportation ministry announced Wednesday traffic regulations mandating bus and truck drivers take 30-minute rests after every four hours of driving to prevent accidents like the one that happened last Sunday, when drowsy tour bus driver crashed into multiple cars in front of the Bongpyeong Tunnel on Yeongdong Expressway, taking the lives of four women.
In cases of natural disasters or accidents, drivers will be excused for driving for five hours without a rest.
The safety regulations that transportation companies also have to abide by were devised in a ministerial conference held on Wednesday, presided by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn.
To prevent accidents caused by drunk driving and falling asleep at the wheel, drivers whose driving licenses were revoked after being caught drunk driving more than three times within five years or after refusing to take a sobriety test will be barred from working as drivers.
If multiple large-size buses drive right behind each other in a row, those drivers’ licenses may be revoked for 30 days, up from 5 days.
Also, drivers who compulsively break traffic laws are mandated to submit their digital driving records to the government, which will be used to monitor drivers as well as decide whether to install a speed limiting device on their cars.
“We will keep track of the digital records to make sure drivers and transportation companies strictly abide by the regulations,” said a public official from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
The monitoring of transportation companies will also be strengthened, the ministry said. Public officials overlooking traffic safety will review drunk driving records, the hours of late night driving and the driver’s familiarity with the particular route before ruling a driver unfit for certain tasks and replacing him or her with another driver.
Additionally, punitive measures against transportation companies that hire unlicensed drivers will be strengthened so they are suspended from doing business for certain amounts of time if they are caught.
Large-size buses as well as trucks will also be required to install safety devices. These devices will include automated emergency braking systems (AEBS), a safety feature that automatically slows or stops a vehicle when the distance to the vehicle in front is too close, as well as lane departure warning systems (LDWS), which warn drivers when a car moves out of its lane.
The government is looking to expand car insurances so that it can cover the installation cost of the safety mechanisms.
Some, however, have pointed out that it is unfeasible for the government to mandate drivers to rest after every four hours of driving while also replacing drivers when the number of drivers in the country overall is already lacking.
They also questioned whether the transportation companies will actually install the safety features, given the costs.
BY HAM JONG-SUN, SHIN SOO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]