November 19, 2012

Driving In Korea (Part 3)

When comparing Korean driving to American driving, it is pretty much a joke to say one is worse than the other. Korean driving is worse than American driving, but America has the WORST driving record compared to the other English speaking countries, as well as other Westernized countries of Europe. I am comparing America to Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

When referring to other European countries, there is a significant difference in driving records when looking at Western countries such as France, Spain, and Germany. However, when we compare former Eastern Bloc countries to their Western counterparts, they have a significantly worse driving record as well. This could be due to the length of time the average person has had cars available to them and the conditions of their roads.

This actually brings up the next point: how long the western world has been driving cars in comparison to the rest of the world. Technically, we should consider 1908 the point at which Americans began driving, which would be since the introduction of the Model T. Americans have had time to develop driving habits that work, and we have seen the problems of letting people do what they want. In the United States we have had over a hundred years to test and make our laws for driving better.

We have seen what works and what costs a lot of people their lives. In America, we have Route 66, and it has two slogans: “Historic Route 66” and “Bloody 66”. It was considered a dangerous highway until the government moved in to make it safer.

Korea is different in this aspect essentially, everything happened at once. They built up nice paved roads and then started to have a lot of people driving on them, all of which happened in a very short amount of time.

America’s worst years for vehicle deaths were in the 1970s, which was 60 plus years after the Model T came out. Due to our slow development of cars and roads, we have been able to develop laws and regulations that work for us. Korea, on the other hand, didn’t modernize until the 1970s, and cars were not easily available to the masses.

I did a good amount of research on this subject, and essentially if Korea had the same percentage of people dying from car accidents as America did back in the 1970s then they would have three times as many deaths based on population.

An interesting piece of information I found is when comparing countries Korea is the second safest Asian country to drive in, with Japan being the safest. The problem is that when we compare these numbers, it is based on the amount of 100,000 people with driver’s licenses not how active a person is with their license.

Also, the statistics do not give information as to when people get their licenses. Where I grew up in the United States, when you turned 16, you went and got your license. Here in Korea, they do not really just go and get their license like we do: it is not the same rite of passage.

Since it is not important in Korea to get a license, they do not drive the same amount of time we drive in the States. They have less experience behind the wheel, so my theory is since they have less experience, they do not drive as well either. One of my current co-workers got her license when she was 23 years old and told me this is her first year driving a lot she is now 30 years old. For seven years she hardly drove a car. My previous co-worker, Sun Young, was 29 years old when she got her license, which was right before we met. My Korean friend Jia is 27 years old and still does not have a license.

In Korea, you don’t need a license to get around; they have public transit that is reliable, cheap, and easy to use for the most part. I could actually sell my motorcycle and still get around Korea easy enough.

I believe my experience theory has credence, because I have helped two of my friends in United States learn to drive. Both of them were of the Caucasian persuasion and in their 20’s when I taught them. Both of them were terrible when we started, and both made mistakes that could have killed us all.

The Good: at the end of the day we are bad drivers until some teaches us how to be better, no matter what age we are.

Image Credit: testing /

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