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Driver acquitted of fatal crash as court acknowledges possibility of unintended acceleration
Ruling marks first case in Korea where court rejects driver accountability in suspected unintentional sudden accelerationBy Choi Jae-hee
Published : June 21, 2023 - 15:10
In a rare ruling, a local court has acknowledged the possibility of a vehicle defect in a 2020 car accident that killed a pedestrian, acquitting the driver of criminal charges.
The Daejeon District Court on Tuesday found not guilty the 56-year-old driver who accidentally hit and killed a 60-year-old security guard on a university campus in Seoul on Dec. 29, 2020.
Black box footage shows that the driver’s car, a local brand, exited an underground parking lot and made a right turn at a speed of about 10 kilometers per hour. Then suddenly, the vehicle accelerated and crashed into the parking attendant booth. It then headed to the sidewalk near the campus with its speed increasing rapidly from 37.3 kph to 68 kph until it slowed down after hitting several street flower pots and the security guard, who was patrolling around the campus. The car came to a stop after accelerating for 13 seconds.
The court ruled that the accident might have involved sudden unintended acceleration caused by a vehicle defect, given that the indicted driver steered to avoid hitting the victim and the car’s brake lights were illuminated multiple times.
“In a case where there is the suspicion of a mechanical defect, it is unreasonable to blame solely the driver for the accident,” the court said in its ruling.
The latest court ruling, a rare acknowledgment from the court of the possibility of unintended acceleration in car accidents, is now drawing attention as to whether it could influence pending trials of similar cases.
Among 766 reported cases of car accidents caused by suspected sudden acceleration that had been reported to the Korea Transportation Safety Authority over the past 13 years, not a single driver was found innocent.
"The responsibility of proving vehicle defects lies with drivers, not the car's manufacturer, which makes it difficult for them to prove innocence," said the attorney for the defendant in the case.
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