An accident caused by a driver with a neurological disorder killed four and injured a dozen pedestrians in Busan on Sunday, raising concerns over whether the process of getting a driver’s license is too easy.
Police said Monday that the 53-year-old driver had renewed his driver’s license in July, without notifying authorities that he was suffering from epilepsy. Authorities said there were no legal methods to discover the driver’s condition in advance.
There has been constant debate over oversimplified driver’s license rules. The National Police Agency announced in January that it had revised the Road Traffic Act to improve the exams for driver’s licenses. The revised rules will take effect in November.
A driver’s license examination office in southern Seoul. (Yonhap)
The total cost to register and take mandatory classes for the exam will be raised to around 480,000 won ($430) from the current 400,000 won.
More questionnaires will also be added to the written exams and difficult driving courses such as curved roads will be incorporated into the driving course test to enhance the capabilities of novice drivers, according to the NPA.
In 2011, the government eased driver’s license rules to allow would-be drivers to save time and money.
Since July 2011, citizens here have been able to obtain the license in 4-5 days by taking 13 hours of classes and passing a set of driving tests including driving on the roads. The number of hours for mandatory classes was cut down from 60 hours to 13 hours. Evaluation criteria was also reduced to six from the original 13 items.
In contrast, in other countries, it takes at least 2-3 years to obtain a driver’s license.
In Australia, drivers receive temporary driver’s license after they pass exams. After two years of authority supervision, drivers can obtain the official license. It takes at least three years in France and two years in Germany and both countries provide drivers with temporary licenses at the beginning.
Experts voiced concerns that the revised driver’s license exam still fails to test and prove if a driver is qualified.
Instead of making driver’s license exams more difficult, an institutional system to regularly evaluate one’s ability to drive safety should come first, said Kwon Ho-kyeong an associate researcher at Hyundai Motors.
“Just like what other developed countries are enforcing with temporary licenses, South Korea should adopt legal methods to regularly test and prove driver’s qualification to drive with safe manners,” Kwon told The Korea Herald.
By Kim Da-sol(firstname.lastname@example.org