Road traffic accidents and policy interventions in Korea

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The high rate of road traffic crashes, in conjunction with the absence of order on the road, has long been considered a critical social problem in Korea. The Korean public seems to agree that high priority ought to be placed on policies for improving road safety. Using data from government sources, this study describes what has happened in the area of road traffic crashes since 1970, the causes of traffic crashes, and the relative importance of traffic injuries as a cause of death in Korea. Road traffic crashes in Korea increased nearly eightfold, from 37,000 in 1970 to 290,481 in 2000. The fatalities increased three-fold and injuries ten-fold over the same period. Road traffic injuries were the leading cause of death for people under 29. However, through multiple policy interventions, partly in response to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, about two thousand road traffic deaths and nine thousand traffic-related disabilities were averted in 2001 alone. The policy interventions included enforcement of penalties for seven risky driving behaviours, including drunk driving and speeding, installation of traffic-monitoring cameras, financial rewards for citizens who reported traffic violations, introduction of a road safety evaluation system, correction of accident black spots in existing roads, and road safety education programs. Through multiple policy interventions, road traffic crashes in Korea were reduced in a relatively short time period, along with their associated injuries and fatalities. However, road traffic crashes still pose a major public health problem, threatening the quality of life of the Korean people.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2003

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