Outlaw on the Road, Electric Scooters1)
Electric scooters, also known as electric kickboards, are now easily seen all across Korea. They are called personal mobility, which makes it easy and fast for an individual to travel from one place to another. Because they are powered by electricity, they are considered to be eco-friendly. In 2019, the market for electric scooter sharing services emerged. The market expanded rapidly, and it gained popularity among the younger generation. According to Mobile Index, as of April 2020, the number of electric scooter sharing apps on Android reached 210,000, which is up about six-fold from the previous year. The electric scooters are fast, and they can reach a maximum speed of 25km/h. It makes it easy to travel about, especially in places where public transportation is unavailable. In addition, areas that are covered by a shared service allow individuals to use the scooters cheaply and conveniently. Currently, electric scooters are classified as 'motorized bicycles.' Therefore, users must have a driver's license in order to operate one. If one is caught using it without wearing a helmet, the individual must pay 20,000 won in fines. Moreover, users must ride them on streets, not sidewalks.
However, despite these regulations, the rules are not being followed by the public. It is not difficult to witness users without helmets or passing pedestrians on sidewalks. According to Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters, accidents caused by electric scooters increased from 73 in 2017 to 117 in 2019. During the same period, the number of deaths increased from four to eight, and two more deaths were reported from electric scooters last October. Despite the increase in the number of users, non-compliance with the rules has increased, so the Ministry of Interior and Safety said it will start to better enforce newly established laws from December 10. To rent the electric scooters, users don't need a driver's license because scooters will be defined as "personal mobility" instead of "motorized bicycles". They will be treated like bicycles. Users without a driver's license can rent electric scooters from the age of 13 or older. The 20,000 won fine for anyone not wearing a helmet will disappear. In addition, today there are users riding them on bicycle paths. Citizens have voiced concern over the growing number of accidents and disappearing regulations. In response, Yoo Jeonghoon, a professor of Department of Transportation Systems Engineering at Ajou University, said, "The present-day controversy over licenses and helmets is important, but society should have created a safe environment before allowing them to be rented. More dangerous areas require restrictions." In other words, more careful regulations are needed in areas that require more attention to safety. The government has also said it would actively reflect more delicate solutions. At a time when users of electric scooters have rapidly increased, detailed regulations, compliance with rules, and a better established system are needed to avoid becoming lawless on the road.
1) Jeong Hangyeol, ''Middle School Students Will Be Allowed to Ride Electric Scooters from December, Growing Anxiety'', Money Today, November 3, 2020