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[Editorial] Safe roads

The National Police Agency has designated low-speed driving areas at 61 locations to protect pedestrians. In these “safe life road” zones in urban districts, the maximum speed of vehicles will be limited to 30 kilometers per hour. To enforce the low-speed limit, speed bumps will be installed and the surface of the road will be raised at crosswalks.

As the police have confirmed traffic accidents reduced by about a quarter in areas where they tested the safe road zones for the past six months, the NPA said it would expand the low-speed zones nationwide upon requests from citizens at residential areas and busy commercial districts.

Local administrations have already designated school zones to protect children and installed various speed limit signs and speed bumps to protect residents. An increasing number of police cameras watch violators in highways as well as in branch roads. Still, what poses the bigger problem in “safe life” is the almost total absence of sidewalks in the countryside.

People cannot move from one village to the next on foot or bike without risking their lives, especially at night. Paved motorways crisscross the country, giving Korea one of the highest ratios of road development in the world, but homeland development authorities have failed to build sidewalks or bike paths along or separate from car lanes because of limited land space. Nearly as many casualties occur on country roads as on expressways as village residents are constantly exposed to the danger of running cars in this heavily motorized nation.

People who yearned for rural life after retirement are quickly disenchanted by the life-threatening hazards awaiting them in the roads. Residents are forced to use cars even when traveling short distances and those who cannot drive have to put themselves at the mercy of motorists.

Government authorities need to make greater efforts to provide rural residents with true freedom of movement in the physical sense by improving facilities for pedestrians, as much as they try to ensure safety and convenience for urban dwellers.
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