SEOUL, Mar. 6 (Korea Bizwire) — A worrying number of South Korean children are falling victim to car accidents, prompting road authorities and schools to take safety precautions.
In Seoul alone, an average of 734 pedestrian accidents involving children have taken place each year over the last five years, prompting local police forces to ramp up efforts to crack down on illegal parking and speeding around hundreds of elementary schools across the country to ensure safety.
Over 11,000 traffic accidents took place with children as victims in 2016, leaving 71 dead and 14,215 injured, according to government data.
Also in 2016, 480 traffic accidents occurred in school zones, resulting in eight deaths and injuries to 510 children in areas that are ostensibly considered to be safe havens for young students.
Comparisons to other countries accentuate the gravity of the situation, as figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development show South Korea ranks near the bottom in terms of vehicular accidents involving pedestrians.
The number of children victims to deadly car accidents while walking in South Korea was 1.5 times higher than the OECD average, while the figure among seniors was nearly five times higher as of 2015.
Against this backdrop, the government announced plans last year to reduce deadly car accidents involving pedestrians by 42 percent by 2021, by increasing the number of CCTV cameras and imposing speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour in designated high-risk areas where harsher punishment will be served for unruly drivers.
Traffic Accidents Involving Children Rise in March
Children across the country are likely to face a higher risk of traffic accidents this month, according to new data from the Road Traffic Authority.
Data analysis released on Tuesday has revealed the number of car accidents involving children surges in March in line with the start of the new school year.
The figures show the number of car accidents involving children stood at 689 and 769 in January and February in 2016, growing to 869 the following month, with similar patterns observed in other years.
Children are involved in deadly car accidents while walking more likely than any other age group, as over half of the traffic deaths among children involved pedestrians.
Calls for Better Education and Stringent Rules
Experts say children sometimes display unexpected behavior when they feel like they are in danger, such as jumping to the left and right, stopping all of a sudden, or jaywalking, to avoid getting hit by a vehicle.
Road accident statistics back the claim as traffic accidents involving children often take place while children cross the road between cars, or get in and out of cars.
When broken down by age and gender, low grade elementary school students are more likely to be involved in car accidents than their older counterparts, as they adjust to new environments with a wider area of activity, while male students, who traditionally trail behind their female counterparts in concentration, are found to be more vulnerable to car accidents.
“Children in general like to run around and lack the ability to measure and predict driving speed and distances, leaving them more likely to fall victim to traffic accidents on the way to school or home, and in residential areas and roads and zebra crossings around private academies,” an official at the Road Traffic Authority said.
“Though improvements to road safety facilities as well as stricter regulations and punishment for drivers are necessary in order to prevent traffic accidents involving children, education on road safety from a young age both at home and at school is most important,” the official added.
Last year, lawmaker Hwang Yeong-cheol called on the government to implement better driving education to create a safe environment at high-risk areas for vulnerable pedestrians including children and seniors.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)