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Driver's licence to be required for electric scooter users

An electric scooter user crosses a street in Seoul earlier this month. Starting Thursday, all electric scooter users in South Korea will be required to have driver's licenses and wear protective helmets. (Yonhap)
An electric scooter user crosses a street in Seoul earlier this month. Starting Thursday, all electric scooter users in South Korea will be required to have driver's licenses and wear protective helmets. (Yonhap)
Starting Thursday, electric scooter users in South Korea will be required to have a driver’s license.

A revision to the Road Traffic Act that takes effect May 13 will make many current electric scooter users ineligible to use them, and they face fines if caught riding illegally.

At the moment, anyone above the age of 13 can use an e-scooter on the street, but when the revision takes effect the minimum age will be 16.

The police said Tuesday that people who drive e-scooters without a valid driver’s license will be fined 100,000 won ($89). Parents or guardians will be fined if the offenders are under 16.

People caught using e-scooters under the influence will face fines of 100,000 won, up 70,000 won from the current penalty of 30,000 won, police said. Riders who refuse to take a Breathalyzer test face a 130,000 won fine, up 30,000 won from the current amount.

Intoxicated users can also have their driver’s licenses suspended. The legislation will require e-scooter users to wear protective headgear or pay a 20,000 won fine.

E-scooter rental services have started reward campaigns to encourage users to register their driver’s licenses on their mobile applications. They are providing coupons and discounts to promote the registration of licenses while putting up banners announcing the new regulations.

The revision passed the National Assembly in December after criticism mounted over the increasing number of traffic accidents involving e-scooters.

According to police data obtained by Rep. Kang Gi-yun of the People Power Party, the number of reported traffic accidents involving personal mobility devices in Seoul rose 4.6 times from 29 cases in 2017 to 134 cases in 2019. Two people died and 225 others were injured, the data showed.

Yet the problem of how law enforcement will crack down on violations remains, as it is estimated that around 1.15 million people are registered to use e-scooter rental services and no specialized monitoring system is in place.

The police said they will spend the first month guiding e-scooter users to follow the revised law, rather than strictly cracking down on violations. Fully educating the public should take priority over enforcement of the new rules, they said.

To prevent traffic accidents, the authorities are also contemplating installing more bike paths for e-scooters. The Road Traffic Act requires e-scooter users to use roads when no bike lanes are available and prohibits them from driving on sidewalks and pedestrian paths.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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