|▲ The scene of the rental car crash in Eoeum-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si on March 27. (Source: Yonhap News)|
As the domestic market of rental cars has grown significantly, the frequency of rental car accidents has also increased. In particular, the number of traffic accidents caused by inexperienced drivers in their early 20s has significantly increased. According to an analysis by the Korea Transportation Safety Authority, the number of rental car registrations has increased 1.7 times over the past five years (2015-2019). This is because the convenience of renting cars has improved as the number of car-sharing companies such as SOCAR and Greencar has increased existing rental car services. But the problem is that after the supply of rental cars has increased, the number of rental car accidents also increased by an average annual growth rate of 12.5% over the past five years. When looking at the current status of rental car accidents by age group, it is clear that the rate of rental car accidents of people in their early 20s is at a serious level. Accidents involving people in their 20s has reached about 30% of total rental car accidents, with a 33% driver fatality rate. Traffic experts point out that the main cause of these accidents is driver carelessness. They say that people in their 20s are mostly inexperienced drivers. And since rental cars can be easily rented through smartphone applications, it facilitates dangerous situations because someone else who is unlicensed or poor at driving can drive, even if they are not the one who borrowed the car.
Since a series of rental car accidents have recently been reported in the media, there have been several cases that caused public outrage. In the early morning of April 15th, a rental car crashed on a drive around Tapjeongho Lake in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do, killing all five passengers. Two men and three women in their early to mid-20s were in the vehicle, and all of them were students attending nearby universities. The vehicle was found to be a compact car rented through a car-sharing service.
In addition, a rapid increase of tourists in Jeju has led to a series of rental car accidents caused by carelessness and poor driving. On March 27, a rental car driven by a tourist in his 20s drove into a pond in Eoeum-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si. The next day, on the 28th, a rental car which was driven by a tourist in his 20s crashed into the sea on the coast of Geumneung-ri, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si. Luckily, no casualties were reported in either case, but police suspected that both accidents were caused by poor driving. According to the Provincial Police Agency in Jeju, a total of 1,641 car rental accidents occurred in Jeju over the past three years (2017-2019), half of which involved drivers in their 20s.
Domestic rental car accidents are not just a recent occurrence. Currently, the Passenger Transport Service Act requires operators to check people’s driving qualifications when lending rental cars. Only drivers over 21 years of age who have had a driver's license for over a year can rent a car. However, the problem is that it is not easy for car rental companies to verify that the person renting the car will be the person driving the car. This is why many car rental accidents have occurred involving drivers in their 20s, in addition to poor driving. Therefore, the government is proceeding with improvement measures to reduce rental car accidents. An amendment for people who are caught letting others use their name so that they can rent a car is expected to take effect soon because it went through Parliament. Those who are convicted might pay a fine of up to 10 million won or face up to a year in jail. As of now, the penalty for business operators who lend rental cars without confirming people’s driving qualifications is just 200,000 won for a first offense, 300,000 won for a second violation, and 500,000 won for a third. But the good news is that statute revision is scheduled to increase the penalty by 10 times. In order for drivers to comply with basic traffic regulations, and to revive the benefits and primary advantages of rental car-sharing services, safety measures such as improving vehicle rental methods and systems are urgently needed.
By Park Jung-hyun,cub-reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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