I have held back long enough. It must finally be said. This will be, I hope, a means of venting the anger that has stewed and fermented in me since I came back to Korea six months ago. Yes, here it goes….
I drive in Korea!
Phew! That feels better. Well, not really but it has opened up the can of worms that I’ve been hoping to unleash for the past six months. It’s not that I hate driving in Korea, I don’t and in fact I find driving in Korea quite facilitating and enjoyable a lot of the time. It’s not that I find my fellow motorists intolerable or that I think that Irish people or (evil word coming up) ‘westerners’ are better drivers. Not at all, in fact definitely not.
So what’s my point then?
Well, like I will never cease to propagate, Korea is very different, and driving is no exception. And, for sure, Korea has plenty of ‘problems’ with its driving environment and the experience it offers to a visitor as a motorist. I am gradually getting used to some of these traits; all I can say is that I am glad that I am not a tourist.
But it also needs to be said that the concept of driving is itself, mad, pure madness in fact. Think about it. Sit yourself in an iron box stuck on wheels and propel yourself down the road at speeds up to and including 120kmph, which is not that disimilar from flying, where you strap yourself into a long tube with wings, and then let some person hurtle you down a long straight road and launch you into the sky and then guide you to a destination…reminds me of Wile E. Coyote:
But these pages are not about pointing the finger at societies and saying, “You’re wrong; I’m better so do it my way”. I really believe that there is no right way or wrong way to do anything and in these pages, you’ve no doubt noticed that I like to point the finger at individuals or corporations that I have issues with, as complaining about a society to change is like asking it not to rain in July when on summer holidays in Ireland. Societies are different and that’s what makes them interesting and that’s what makes people travel; to experience difference.
However, driving in Korea is not one of the experiences that I would like to suggest as a worthwhile experience. I’m sorry for any Korean people who made read this and may feel upset about this, but as we say in Ireland, “It’s mad, pure madness, it’s a wonder ye haven’t been killed!” I came across a friend of mine’s ESL text book yesterday and in it he refered to the traffic situation as “Traffic Tetris”!
Anyway, Ireland is a country that is not particular proud of its road death rate, but it must be noted that the rate has declined significantly in the past few years, or so we have been told. Korea, according to this report has a considerably higher fatality rate than any other OECD country. But regardless of this startling and terrifying statistic for any driver in Korea (think about it, 147 people per million of the population means that around 7,000 people die every year in traffic related accidents), this is not my concern.
As I said, the roads here are mad, pure mad! And if I may be sold bold I’d like to make some suggestions as to measures the Korean government could take to make things better on the roads for everyone:
1. Buses, and in fact everyone, should realise that the caution lights are there for when you need to give warning about something immediate, or if you are parked in a dangerous location. They shouldn’t be used when the driver wants to pull in, do a wide sweeping movement around four vehicles resulting in a sudden stop, or just when stopping in general. There are indicators (the word indicator means “to show”) that amply ‘describe’ which way you are turning, and brake lights to tell me you are stopping. Don’t leave the drivers guessing what is going to happen next.
2. All male motorcycle delivery technicians should have their testicles removed.
3. Get rid of roundabouts, or ‘rotary’ junctions. People don’t know how to use them, and any time I come to one the drivers just assume that it’s alright to plough out in front of you. Roundabouts work fine in Ireland (and possibly the rest of Europe) because people know what to expect, here it’s a regular dance with death.
4. The police should actually ‘police’. In this case, seeing as there is a distinct lack of drug dealers, muggers, teenagers cruising the streets before and after dark, maybe the cops would be more suited to apprehending shite and dangerous drivers…just a thought.
5. Social programming should be implemented where by it is quietly suggested to people that when there is a typhoon/monsoon/blizzard, high-speed driving with no lights on is not necessarily a good idea.
6. To get people to stop driving like clowns and killing over 7,000 people a year, road safety videos like the ones we have in Ireland (see below) should be used. Celebrities with sombre faces obviously isn’t working as well as it does for selling clothes and mobile phones:
8. Over tinted windows and ridiculous flashing brakelights with LEDs to beat the band all over the cars should be outlawed. Not because they’re dangerous or a distraction, but because they look stupid (how can you see through your front windscreen in the middle of the night when you might as well be wearing sunglasses?).
9. Human anatomy lessons should be delivered at the driving test centres so drivers can learn what an actual person looks like, especially in the action of crossing the street on a green light.
Chances are though we won’t see anything happen. Ah well, a boy can dream…
Safe and happy driving everyone 😀