SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Korea Bizwire) – A growing number of Koreans insist that strong measures should be taken to improve taxi driver safety, following a spate of serious taxi crimes. Last month, a taxi driver was assaulted by a passenger in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. When the driver tried to give change to the customer after arriving at the destination, he was hit in the face with a soju bottle. In Jeju, a drunken customer attacked another driver for no reason.
Some said that light punishment for crimes against taxi drivers allows accidents to increase. According to the Additional Punishment Law on Specific Crimes, a perpetrator who assaults or threatens a driver who is driving will be imprisoned for less than five years or fined 20 million won, equivalent to US$17,970, or less. But most assailants are actually fined about one million won if they are not habitual offenders.
As the number of crimes against taxi drivers has continuously increased, the Seoul Metropolitan city government decided to support a program to install driver protection screens. In a study conducted by the city government surveying 803 women taxi drivers, 34.8 percent answered that it should be mandatory for every taxi to have a partition available. The screens will be made of polycarbonate, which has high impact resistance. A partition will separate the driver’s front seat area from the remainder of the vehicle, which 89.9 percent respondents preferred to other shapes of screens.
The city government plans to first contribute to the installation of the screens in 35 taxis driven by women drivers, by covering 50 percent of the installation cost. After reviewing the results of this pilot project, it will decide whether to implement the policy in all taxis.
City buses are currently equipped with driver-passenger partitions for in-vehicle security, as the Passenger Transport Service Act has forced transport companies to install them since 2006. The city government explained that it decided to help women drivers first, as they are particularly vulnerable to crimes.
By Veronica Huh (firstname.lastname@example.org)