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Seoul intersection illustrates Korea`s poor driving culture
JANUARY 02, 2013 03:07  
A man who was driving toward Seoul`s Cheongnyangni from Dongdaemun soon noticed that he was close to the Shinseol-dong intersection. He did not have to look around to see where he was. Honking sounds explained it all.

As he approached the five-way crossroad linking the Jongno and Dongdaemun districts, his hands on the steering wheel started sweating. The road was in chaos. Cars were tailing each another to avoid missing the traffic signal, a motorcycle suddenly cut in, and a pedestrian was almost run over by a van making an illegal U-turn.

Video captured by a camera Dec. 20 to 21 last year at the intersection vividly illustrated the poor driving habits of Koreans.

○ 7 a.m. = bad conscience

In early morning rush hour, cars were lined up in a long line to avoid missing the traffic light. Red lights and the security rods of traffic police were of no use.

Cars that failed to drive pass the traffic light unsuccessfully tried to go straight to Cheonggye 8 Street from Daegwang High School, and blared their horns in frustration. They failed to make it as cars making left turns from Dongdaemun Ward Office to Dongdaemun were tailing one another and dominating the road.

A taxi honked its horn and cut in front of a lined-up car and succeeded in going straight. But another cab and a truck that were trailing were caught in the middle of the intersection, leading to a dangerous scene. In 2011, 23 cases or 39 percent of accidents of cutting in on this road occurred.

Data obtained from Samsung Traffic Safety Research Institute by a Dong-A Ilbo reporter showed 203 cases of cutting in between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. in one of the two days. Tailing other cars led to traffic congestion on the entire road.

○ Noon = no blinkers!

At 12:20 p.m., a van made a sudden stop near a bus stop on Wangsan Street. The driver was coming from Dongdaemun and going straight toward Cheongnyangni, when a taxi suddenly cut in from the right without turning on the blinker. The van`s tire made a meter-long skid mark.

Both drivers rolled down their windows and yelled at each other. The cabbie frowned, saying the van driver could have made way for him, while the latter confronted him and said blindly cutting in is no excuse.

Seven fender-bender cases occurred due to sudden lane changing in 2011.

○ 7 p.m. = risk of quick start

A motorcycle standing on a crosswalk with pedestrians started to go before the traffic light turned green. It then fell down on the street after trying to avoid a bus turning left from Yongdu-dong to Cheongnyangni. The load on the motorcycle fell and the road was temporarily paralyzed to the noise of car horns.

This intersection has made all traffic lights turn red for three seconds to reduce accidents. This system, however, is a "start" sign for motorcycles that want to get a headstart of even one second.

Data showed that between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., 252 motorcycles jumped the gun on the traffic light at this crosswalk. Car drivers do not ease up even when the light turns green, fearing that motorcycles could pop up.

Among all traffic accidents that occurred here last year, 20 percent involved motorcycles.

○ Midnight = wait-and-see driving

Past midnight, wait-and-see driving began. Drivers started to ignore red lights. Between midnight and 4 a.m., many cars crept forward as they saw no cars around and were turning left on red lights. A combined 63 cars violated traffic signals over the four-hour period.

Late-night speeding cars triggered dangerous situations even when they observed traffic signals. They stepped on the brake so suddenly when seeing a yellow light, and trailing cars were forced to slam on their brakes to avoid a crash. In 2011, most of the 10 rear-end collisions were caused by sudden stops, or 16.9 percent.

At 6:30 a.m. the Shinseol-dong intersection regained a measure of peace, but tailing, cutting in and violation of stop lines soon started again, several of which would cause accidents. Something clearly needs to be done to remove the dishonor of this place, a hotbed of horrendous driving habits.

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