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Cablegate: Response to Demarche On Distracted Driving

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PP RUEHAST RUEHDH RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL RUEHTRO
DE RUEHUL #0234/01 0470215
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160215Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7063
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SEOUL 000234

SIPDIS

OES/S FOR N.CARTER-FOSTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON SOCI UNDP UNGA KS
SUBJECT: RESPONSE TO DEMARCHE ON DISTRACTED DRIVING

REF: STATE 06703

1. Post delivered the demarche in Reftel to the Korean
Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs According on
February 3. Ministry officials agreed that texting while
driving, talking on cell phones while driving, and watching
television while driving are serious problems in the Republic
of Korea (ROK). In response to our request for information,
the Ministry provided data on the legal context, public
awareness and education, research and studies and statistical
data on accidents, injuries, and fatalities related to
distracted driving.

Legal Context
-------------
2. No law or regulation specifically bans texting while
driving in Korea. However, Provision 10 of Article 49 of the
Road Traffic Act restricts the use of cell phones (including
texting) while driving. An unofficial English translation of
Provision 10 follows:

BEGIN TRANSLATION: No drivershall use a cell phone while
driving a motor vehicle. This restriction shall not apply in
the following circumstances:
(a) When the motor vehicle has come to a stop and is not
moving;
(b) When the vehicle being driven is an emergency motor
vehicle;
(c) When it is necessary to report without delay
various kinds of crimes or any accident; and
(d) When any device prescribed by Presidential
Decree as not impeding the safe driving of any
motor vehicle is being used. END TRANSLATION.

3. In October 2009, a District Court in Seoul invalidated a
fine that police had issued to a taxi driver who had been
caught driving while watching television via onboard
satellite digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB). The fine
was issued in accordance with a March 2008 Seoul City
ordinance that bans the use of DMB television while operating
a motor vehicle. The court ruled that the Seoul ordinance
was invalid because a 1993 national law bans the government
from making arbitrary amendment of rules on public
transportation services.

4. In response to the October 2009 Seoul court ruling,
National Assemblyman Gong Sung-jin of the ruling Grand
National Party introduced a bill revising the Road Traffic
Act that would ban the use of DMB television while operating
a motor vehicle. Under the bill's provisions, violators
would face a fine of up to 300,000 won (USD 260). The bill
also mandates installation of software that would make it
impossible for drivers to watch. The bill is still pending
at the National Assembly. (Note: A similar bill introduced in
2005 was withdrawn after some National Assembly members
claimed it would hinder Korean IT development.)

Public Awareness and Education
------------------------------
5. The ROKG has a Basic Plan for National Traffic Safety to
enhance nationwide awareness of safe driving that includes
awareness of the dangers of cell phone use. Since 2007, the
Korea National Police Agency has coordinated with other
relevant government agencies to carry out awareness campaigns
discouraging the use of cell phone and watching television
while driving. In addition to education on the dangers of
distracted driving, the campaigns have also targeted
pedestrian use of cell phone and portable video devices,
especially while crossing streets.


Accidents, Injuries and Fatalities
----------------------------------
6. According to the Korea Road Traffic Authority, the
following figures reflect the number of road accidents from
2005 to 2008 resulting from using cell phones while driving:

2005 - 235 accidents with 415 injuries and 6 deaths
2006 - 192 accidents with 344 injuries and 6 deaths
2007 - 201 accidents with 324 injuries and 3 deaths
2008 - 200 accidents with 351 injuries and 2 deaths

Research and Studies
--------------------
7. The Traffic Science Research Center under the Korea Road
Traffic Authority released a research paper in 2006 titled,
"The Effects of Watching Television in Vehicle on Driver's
Behavior". The report states that the rapid development in
IT technology in Korea has led to increased television
installation in motor vehicles. The report concluded that
watching television while driving impairs a driver's

SEOUL 00000234 002 OF 002


cognitive and visual attention, which could result in road
accidents.

8. Various think tanks have conducted surveys and research
projects to provide data to inform officials in establishing
regulatory standards and educational programs related to the
use of cell phones and watching television while driving. A
Samsung Traffic Safety Research Institute study conducted in
2009 concluded that talking on a cell phone decreased
drivers' concentration by about 40 percent, and that watching
DMB television decreased drivers' concentration by about 50
percent.

Prevalence of Cell Phone and DMB Television Use
--------------------------------------------- --
9. According to the Korea Communications Commission, at the
end of 2009, cell phones were used by 47,944,222 people -
98.4 percent of Korea's total population.

10. According to the Korea Radio Promotion Association, more
than 21 million DMB devices were sold in the first half of
2009, and 6 million of them were intended for motor vehicle
installation. (Post note: Although the vehicular DMB devices
are intended for passenger use in vehicles such as long
distance buses, they are a common feature on the dashboard of
Seoul taxis.)
STEPHENS

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