The number of drunk driving accidents has been rising with the widespread perception that the police's breathalyzer alcohol test has become lax since the Covid-19 incident. According to the National Police Agency on September 21, the number of drunk driving traffic accidents between January and August increased to about 15.6 percent compared to the same period last year. Drunk driving accidents occur habitually every year. Victims and their bereaved families are severely hurt, while the punishment given to the criminal or perpetrator is relatively insignificant. Therefore, in this article, I want to reassess the current status and sentencing regulations of drunk driving cases and discuss how penalties should be strengthened in the future.
Definition of Drunk Driving and Punishment Criteria
Drunk driving refers to driving a car while intoxicated. Article 44 paragraph 1 of the Road Traffic Act stipulates that "no one can drive a motor vehicle while drunken". The National Assembly passed the so-called "Yoon Chang-ho Act" in 2018, including the "Revision of the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Crimes" and the "Revision of the Road Traffic Act," which states the enhancement of the level of punishment for drivers who caused casualties for drunk driving and strengthening standards for drunk driving. Previously, 1 to 3 years in prison or 5 to 10 million won for fines were imposed on drunk drivers who have violated the law more than three times. The punishment is now strengthened to 2 to 5 years in prison or 5 to 20 million won in fines for those caught drunk driving from June 25, 2019. In addition, the regulation on suspension and cancellation of a driver's license has been strengthened, increasing the standard for suspension of driver's license. The blood alcohol rate changed from 0.05% or higher to 0.03% or higher, and the standard for revocation of driver's license from 0.10% or more to 0.08%. Also, a driver's license will now be revoked if they get caught in drunk driving twice, which was previously three times.
The person in the vehicle together is also responsible for not stopping the driver, so the law states it a crime of aiding and abetting. They can be charged up to one and a half years in prison and a fine of up to 5 million won. If they encouraged the drunk driver to drive, instead of stopping them, he or she will be sentenced to up to three years for prison term or fined up to 10 million.
Status and actual condition
- New drinking control act under Corona 19: As concerns spread by the increase of Covid-19 earlier this year, police changed the existing breathalyzer testing method. They were instructed only to test the cars that are under suspicion of drunk driving from January 28. Police and drivers have introduced a new crackdown system that allows them to measure whether they are drunk or not without direct contact. The non-contact "S-shaped" drinking crackdown method is to install a "safety-indicating triangle" on the road in an S-shaped manner, and then select suspected drunk vehicles such as stumbling or hitting a Labacon(Triangle-shaped safety indication) by entering a vehicle one by one, and then the ones who couldn't pass will be checked through a breathalyzer. However, this 'S-shaped' crackdown does not allow all drunk drivers to be caught. To supplement this act, a "non-contact detector" that can detect whether a driver is drunk without breathing will be deployed for the crackdowns on drinking. The contactless detector, recently developed by the police, can determine whether a driver is drunk by analyzing the components that occur during breathing for five seconds from about 30 centimeters away from the driver's face.
- Results of investigation on victims and perpetrators: According to a report on the zero traffic accident practice and support project conducted in December 2019, about two-thirds of the victims, or 62 percent, suffered from aftereffect disorder. The average economic damage suffered by victims was about 18.3 million won, compared with the actual damage amount, 14.64 million won, which is only about 80 percent of the total damage. In addition, 75.8 percent of the perpetrators were found to have never been treated or hospitalized due to an accident, with an average of 11.3 million won spent due to an accident.
As such, the victim suffered enormous physical, economic, and social damage that could not be counted only financially, while the perpetrator suffered mostly some financial losses, as well.
Actual damage case
- Yoon Chang-ho's drunk driving incident: Yoon Chang-ho's case is the most representative case of drunk driving, as the new Yoon Chang-ho Act was named after the victim and was enacted in 2019. The incident occurred early on September 25, 2018, when a driver drove his car, a BMW, with a blood alcohol of 0.181 percent, which is the level of revocation of his license, hit a pedestrian who was standing on a crosswalk at Mipo Ogeori intersection in Haeundae-gu, Busan. Yoon fell into a brain-dead state with a severe head injury after the accident and died on November 9 of that year, while the rest of his friends near him suffered for three weeks. The judge sentenced the assailant to six years in prison, which made Yoon Chang-ho's family and friends complain that "six years in prison is too light." immediately after the sentence.
- Eurwang-ri drunk driving incident: On September 10, 2020, a post titled 'I am the daughter of a 50-year-old father who died from the reverse driving of a car in Eurwang-ri' was posted on the Cheong Wa Dae national petition board, which drew many people's sadness drawing more than 300,000 petitions of people a day. The victim's daughter said in the post, "My father delivered chicken as usual at dawn. He said he couldn't eat dinner because he had many orders from the evening and that it was his last delivery. My mother begged the doctor to keep my father alive even if he would carry a disability, but, ultimately, he couldn't make it." According to witnesses, the body was lying on the central line at the time of the accident, and the assailant found a lawyer rather than 119 while drunk. The victims' families requested that the selfish assailant to be sentenced to the maximum.
I believe that the standard for drunk driving control for beginners and business vehicle drivers needs to be strengthened to 0.00 percent of blood alcohol concentration. For beginners, it is necessary to prevent drunk driving from becoming a habit by applying stricter standards from the early stages of driving. For business vehicle drivers who have a significant impact on citizens' safety, 0.00% should be applied for the standard to strengthen the perception that "not a single drink is allowed when driving." Also, as there are many repetitive offenders, it is necessary to check if they are addicted to alcohol when they reacquire their licenses. And it is necessary to improve the insurance system to raise the burden on perpetrators. Finally, it would be good to create a system that will implement re-education even if drunk drivers re-attain their driver's license. Drunk driving is not a mistake but an act of murder, and it should not be lightly punished to prevent further accidents. Don't be complacent about drinking just one shot, and keep in mind that you can always be the perpetrator of a drunk driving incident.
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