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Pedestrians here least safe in OECD

Korea has the highest pedestrian death rate among OECD states and the Korean police are partly responsible for that number.
The number of pedestrians who died from traffic accidents reached 4.61 in every 100,000 people in 2007, according to the 2007 OECD statistics quoted by the Korea Transport Institute yesterday.
With the record, Korea far exceeded Hungary, which was ranked second in the list with 2.86. Greece and Portugal followed with 2.11 and 2.02 respectively. Japan turned out to be relatively safe with 1.9 in every 100,000.
Korea also other states in the number of pedestrian deaths per every 10,000 cars, with 1.36 - almost five times higher than Japan`s record of 0.2.
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Over three quarters of pedestrian deaths in Korea occurred in narrow side streets with a width of 13 meters or less.
"Cars are often given priority in residential areas, greatly deteriorating the walking safety of pedestrians," said an employee of the KTI. "The introduction and expansion of exclusive pedestrian streets is required in order to reduce the high accident rate."
The pedestrian safety level shown in the United Kingdom and Japan were highly contributable to the introduction of such system, he said.
While Korea struggles to rid itself of such an unenviable status, its police are increasingly adding to the overall traffic accident rate.
The number of traffic accidents caused by police vehicles has risen from 1,216 in 2006 to 1,352 in 2007 and to 1,733 last year, according to the data submitted by the National Police Agency to Rep. Shin Young-soo of the ruling Grand National Party.
The number of resulting casualties also rose from 500 in 2006 (two deaths) to 569 in 2007 and to 685 last year (two deaths).
Accidents caused by police vehicles as of the end of July reached 1,116 or 5.26 in average per day, leading to 311 injuries. If the trend continues for the rest of the year, there will have been an increase in police accidents, but resulting injuries will be down from last year.
"Whereas the government is spending an average of 600 billion won ($486 million) every year to reduce traffic accidents, the police are cutting down on such efforts by threatening the citizens` lives," said Rep. Shin.
On the other hand, traffic accidents caused by citizens involving police officials or vehicles have also steadily risen over the years, from 387 in 2006 to 451 in 2007 and to 541 last year.

By Bae Hyun-jung
Korea Herald Youtube