Insurance payouts jump as scooter accidents increase
Safety concerns are mounting over the use of electric scooters as the number of accidents involving the new mobility solution has been growing sharply.
According to statistics from the Korea Insurance Development Institute and Korea Trucking Association, 2,227 electric scooter accidents were reported between 2017 and June this year. In 2019 alone, 722 accidents were reported, a 112 percent increase from 2017.
Roughly 466 accidents were reported during the first half of the year.
With the increase in the number of accidents, the size of insurance payouts has been skyrocketing. In 2017, a total of 21.5 billion won ($18.8 million) was paid in insurance claims relating to electric scooter accidents. That amount rose to 112.8 billion won last year. A total of 219.3 billion won has been paid in insurance payouts as of June this year.
Accidents are also getting more serious. The average insurance payout per accident was about 59.3 million won in 2017 but reached 143.8 million won last year.
The number of fatalities is also rising. Only one person died in an electric scooter accident in 2018, with that number rising to two last year. As of June this year, three people have lost their lives in electric scooter accidents.
Mobility companies say the actual number of accidents is likely to be much higher.
The statistics by the Korea Insurance Development Institute and Korea Trucking Association only include the accidents between electric scooters and vehicles that have been reported to the association. It doesn’t include incidents where the two sides have reached an agreement at the scene without reporting it to their insurance company.
In a survey conducted by The Korea Transport Institute on electric scooter riders that have experienced accidents, 62 percent said they didn’t report the accidents to their insurance companies. Only 20.9 percent said they called the insurance company while 10.3 percent said they reported it to the police.
The recent increase in the number of accidents is largely due to the sudden popularity of electric scooters.
As of the end of August, about 16 companies are operating a total of 35,850 electric scooters in Seoul. The number has increased nearly fivefold after the Covid-19 outbreak, as there were only 7,500 electric scooters operating last November.
Including electric scooters owned by individuals, the number is expected to be much higher.
According to The Korea Transport Institute, a total of 187,749 electric scooters are being operated in the country this year. With the delivery booming in the country, personal mobility such as electric scooters are often used by people who deliver food and products to customers.
“With the recent boom in electric scooters after the Covid-19 outbreak, the risk of accident has been increasing sharply,” said ruling Democratic Party lawmaker Cheon Jun-ho. “The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport must come up with measures that can protect not only the riders but also pedestrians."
Experts agree with Cheon.
Under the revised Road Traffic Act that will take effect on Dec. 10, riders can drive electric scooters on bike paths. The new law will allow all people who are aged over 13 to drive electric scooters without related licenses.
Until recently, people aged 16 or over who own a regular driver’s license or motorcycle driver's license were allowed to drive scooters.
In Korea, 80 percent of all bike paths are also used by pedestrians. If the law takes effect, the number of accidents between electric scooter drivers and pedestrians is likely to grow.
“Personal mobility is gaining global popularity as a new means of transportation,” said Shin Hui-cheol, a researcher at The Korea Transport Institute. “In order to expand the industry, [the government] should solve the safety and parking problems, as well as improve the insurance system.”
BY PARK MIN-JE [email@example.com]