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Controlling Drinking and Driving by Sorting?

Posted April. 23, 2003 22:18,   


The basic premise of the new drinking and driving policy was announced on April 23 by the National Police Agency. The police will stop only those vehicles with clear indications of drivers being intoxicated through a method of sorting.

Far different from the current method, which takes 10 police officers blocking a street to inspect every single vehicle passing through, they will now sort and stop only those vehicles with notable indications of driving with intoxicated on the spot or during patrols. Accordingly, the existing 1 or 2 control points per police station will most likely be increased to about 4 to 6 points per station. The police will especially strengthen preventative control in those areas with bars and nightclubs.

The control standards consist of 23 items: sudden stopping without any apparent reason; tailgating; turning on a large radius; slow response to traffic signals; sudden breaking or sudden acceleration; swerving; driving on the wrong side of the street; and notable changes in speed, etc. These items have been drawn from the overall indications of drinking and driving in general.

“The current traffic control method is very inconvenient for citizens and there are many cases for disagreement,” explained the National Policy Agency. “Not only does blocking streets to catch intoxicated drivers create heavy traffic, many sober drivers have expressed anger because they feel their rights are being violated.”

It was found that a lot of complaints posted on homepage of the National Policy Agency were also a cause of the decision to introduce the new traffic control method.

“Even the United States carries out its control system by putting importance on the flow of traffic, which is very similar to the method we are about to initiate,” explained the National Police Agency. Japan however carries out its traffic control by blocking streets and checking every single vehicle, very similar to the currently executed control method in Korea.

On the contrary, it has been pointed out that lessening traffic control despite the annually increasing number of drunk drivers is inappropriate. In reality, the number of registered drinking and driving cases has increased: 240,000 cases in 1999 increased to 270,000 cases in 2000, and 370,000 cases in 2001 increased to 410,000 cases in 2002.

“The apparent indications of drinking and driving show that the driver already is heavily intoxicated. Thus the new method announced by the police means that they would only stop those who are heavily intoxicated,” pointed out President Lim Tong-il of the Korea Association of Traffic Accident Victims.

The drunken driving is a serious crime, which could even harm the lives of the citizens. It is not appropriate for the police to lighten the controlling of the drunken driving in the name of relieving the inconveniences of citizens when it needs to be even more strengthened,” stated President Im.

The opinions within the National Police Agency vary as well. One opinion claims that “it is their will to gain popularity from the citizens by lightening the controlling instead of recovering the lost trust by strictly executing the law.” One high official pointed out, “the original problem lies within their desire to hear good sayings from the lawbreakers.”

Jin-Goo Lee sys1201@donga.com