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Recommendations and Opinions to Protect the Rights of the Older Persons from Traffic Accidents
- Over half of the pedestrian accident victims are older persons -
- Need for bold actions to protect the rights to life for senior citizens -
□ The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Doohwan Song, hereinafter the ‘NHRCK’ or the ‘Commission’) commented and recommended the following to the Chairman of the National Assembly, the Minister of Interior and Safety and the Commissioner General of the Korean National Police Agency on 13 May 2022.
- The NHRCK presented an opinion to the Chairman of the National Assembly to promptly review and legislate the ‘Partial Amendment Draft to the Road Traffic Act’, which is pending at the National Assembly.
- The NHRCK recommend conducting an overall assessment on the process of designating and managing ‘senior protection zones’, formulating measures to make more protection zones for the elderly and enhance the protection on older persons in the zones to the Minister of Interior and Safety and the Commissioner General of the Korean National Police Agency.
□ The report ‘Measures for Reducing Traffic Accident Deaths 2021’ says there were 1,039 pedestrian deaths in Korea as of 2020 and 628 of them were older persons (57.5%). The fact that the older persons take up over half of the pedestrian deaths when the group make up only 15.7% of Korean population(8.15 million) shows that older persons are particularly vulnerable to traffic accidents than other age groups.
□ The number of traffic accident deaths of the senior citizens over 65 years old (rate per 100,000 population) in Korea is around 22.8 cases. The number is roughly three times higher than the OECD average of 7.9 cases, and it is also strikingly higher than the second and third highest death rates on the list which are 13.5(Chile) and 13.4(the US) cases.
□ In this regard, the Commission viewed that more measures need to be implemented to improve the process of senior protection zone designation and management in order to protect the rights to health and life of the elderly from fatal traffic accidents. Unlike child protection zones, the current ‘Road Traffic Act’ does not make it compulsory for the authority to install surveillance equipment such as speed cameras and the equipment ensuring safe traffic flow, including traffic lights, in senior protection zones. The Commission also viewed that the current measure of simply identifying and designating an area where there are high chances of traffic accidents and calling it a ‘senior protection zone’ is not enough.
□ The NHRCK, therefore, saw that the speed limit in a senior protection zone has to be set under 30km/h, as it is the case for child protection zones, and that the regulation has to be formulated to make it a requirement for the relevant authority to install safety equipment in senior protection zones for traffic safety, so as to ensure the effective implementation of the Article 12-2 of the ‘Road Traffic Act’(‘Designation and management of Protection Areas for Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities’).
□ Incorporating all this, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea presented an opinion to the Chairman of the National Assembly that prompt review and legislation of the bills regarding the traffic safety for the older persons are highly encouraged. The Commission also provided recommendations to the Minister of Interior and Safety and the Commissioner General of the Korean National Police Agency to have an overall assessment on the whole system affecting senior traffic accidents and to formulate measures to enhance the rights for senior citizens to maintain their safety.