Lower speed limit coming to city streets

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Lower speed limit coming to city streets

The government laid out plans on Tuesday to lower the speed limit on all city streets to 50 kilometers an hour (30 miles per hour) from the current 60 and enforce tougher penalties for drunken driving as part of efforts to halve the number of vehicular deaths by 2022.

The measures, unveiled by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, are part of President Moon Jae-in’s policy pledge to protect lives. The goal is to lower the number of traffic deaths from last year’s 4,200 to around 2,000 in the next four years.

Based on the government’s timeline, the new speed limit for city streets will be fully implemented by 2019. The 50-kilometer limit is currently being tested on several streets in Seoul and Sejong.

Speed limits in residential areas and school zones will likely be lowered to a range of 10 to 20 kilometers per hour from the current 30.

The measures are a response to government studies that found 40 percent of all vehicular deaths involved pedestrians and 52 percent of them happened on roads with no sidewalks where cars and pedestrians share the street.

There will be stricter penalties against for drunken driving. The blood alcohol limit for license suspension will be lowered from 0.05 percent to 0.03 percent. Cab drivers can lose their business license if they are found guilty even once of driving under the influence.

Getting a driver’s license will get tougher in 2019. Currently, applicants can pass the written test by scoring more than 60 or 70 points out of 100 depending on the type of license. That minimum will be raised to 80. The number of questions will be raised from 40 to 50.

Vehicular deaths in Korea have been falling since reaching a peak of 13,429 in 1991. The government cited efforts like mandatory seat belt laws and surveillance cameras for the shrinking number of deaths.

But it said the current system’s efficacy has plateaued. Traffic deaths in the last three years have remained above 4,000, the government said, requiring stronger action.

Despite the improvement, Korea still has one of the highest rates of vehicular deaths among OECD countries. In a 2015 report, Korea ranked 31st out of 35 when it came to the number of people who died in car accidents for every 100,000 people, with 9.1.

The only countries that ranked worse were Latvia, Turkey, the United States and Chile, in that order, while the lowest death rate was Norway’s 1.8. Japan, Korea’s neighbor, had a rate of 3.8.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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