|▲Electric scooters obstructing walkway by the side of a crosswalk (left: Gcooter, right: Alpaca)|
Recently, it has become more common to see people riding electric scooters on the streets. Electric scooters are equipped with an electric motor, so they are a quick and convenient way to get to wherever people want to go. In Changwon, there are shared electric scooter companies such as Alpaca, Mercane Mate and Gcooter. To use the scooters, people can download an application and enter some basic information (name, date of birth, gender, driver’s license, and card payment information).
There are a total of about 380 shared electric scooters in Changwon. This is 4 times more than the previous year. As the number of scooter share users increases, the rate of scooter accidents is also increasing. By the first half of this year, 886 electric scooter accidents were reported in Korea. By looking at the accidents which have happened so far, electric scooters frequently went on the road without warning drivers and were hit by vehicles. Accidents sometimes occur at night because of the light-emitting lamp that is attached to the bottom of the scooter. This light is too small to be seen by vehicle drivers. Other problems include illegal left-turns and riding among other vehicles.
It is also common to see more than two people on a single scooter. Friends, partners, and family ride together which increases the risk of accidents. Some people drive dangerously across traffic lanes, and many people complain about scooters that are left on walkways and streets. The scooters on the streets increase the rate of accidents by creating blind spots for drivers while driving vehicles.
For this reason, many people are demanding that electric scooters should have designated parking areas. Those who oppose designated scooter parking say that shared electric scooters aim to provide a more convenient mode of transportation throughout the city. Part of that convenience is allowing users to park where they want after they have finished their trip. Their opinion is that if parking is restricted to designated areas, the convenience will be lost.
Some students at Changwon National University have also had dangerous experiences related to electric scooters. Kim Min-woo, in the department of English Language and Literature, said, “When I ride the electric scooter, I almost got into a car accident. Because I didn’t see the car behind me. Fortunately, I avoided the accident, but by trying to avoid the car, I fell and broke my nose. There are no side mirrors on electric scooters, so I couldn't see the car behind me before I turned.”
Kim Do-kyung, in the department of Global Business, said, "I almost got into an accident because of an electric scooter that suddenly got stuck in the roadway. At that time, the driver of the scooter increased the risk of an accident by wearing earphones. I think that wearing earphones while riding a scooter should be restricted. It is so dangerous.”
Despite the increasing frequency of accidents and deaths, the government said the regulations for electric scooters will be weakened. Until now, electric scooters have been treated like motorcycles, but they will be treated like electric bicycles after December 10. As a result, anyone who is over 13 years old will be able to use an electric scooter without a driver’s license. Scooters will be driven on cycling lanes, not roads. Helmets will be mandatory, but there is no punishment for people who don’t wear helmets.
Unlike Korea, European countries have tightened regulations on scooters. Paris announced a fine of 135 euros for riding electric scooters on sidewalks, and a fine of 35 euros for leaving electric scooters on the sidewalk. In the U.K., electric scooters were restricted from all public roads. They can only be driven on private property. People who violate this law will be fined 300 euros. In the U.S., electric scooters are banned from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
The Korean government needs to pay attention to the increasing rate of accidents involving electric scooters and come up with realistic countermeasures like other countries. The most important thing to remember is that a person’s carelessness and complacency can not only be inconvenient to others, but can also cause serious accidents.
By Kim Da-eun, cub-reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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