Recently, loosened regulations on electric scooters have been bringing up safety concerns among the Korean public. During May, the National Assembly passed a new version of the Road Traffic Law in order to expand public accessibility to smart mobility. As a result, electric scooters will be considered personal mobility devices, applied with equal traffic regulations as bicycles. The e-scooters were at first only available for users starting from age 16, but due to changed regulations, anyone above age 13 will now have access to the scooters. However, as the eased regulations on electric scooters will be put into effect from December, the public is apprehensive of the potential safety hazards electric scooters on the streets might pose to pedestrians.
“In my opinion, loosened scooter regulations are definitely going to be hazardous,” said Erin Lee (12), user of e-scooters. “I tend to use e-scooters often because they are easy to access and ride around to get to certain places, but I do know that there have been continuing concerns regarding the safety of them. With loosened regulations, more unexpected accidents may occur since the scooters are not extremely safe forms of transport in the first place.”
Electric scooters rapidly started gaining popularity from 2018, when commercialized as environmentally friendly forms of transportation. However, due to lacking specific safety measures, numbers of e-scooter accidents have skyrocketed over the past years. According to the Korea Road Traffic Authority, scooter accident rates have increased annually since 2017, with 447 cases in 2019, spurring recent concerns among Koreans regarding loosened regulations on this form of transport.
“Looking at the number of accidents and deaths that were caused by these scooters, the safety concerns arising from the public is understandable,” said Claire Kim (11), another user of electric scooters. “If anyone from age 13 is allowed to ride these scooters, numbers of accidents will definitely shoot higher, and in the worst case scenario, may lead to more deaths due to the insufficiency of safety measures.”
With rising safety concerns, many believe that regulations should be tightened again in order to prevent further accidents and possible deaths. As much as e-scooters are popular and comfortable forms of transport, users also have to be cautious during their usage. Even though wearing helmets may remain mandatory and riders will face the same consequences as bicyclists if they break the laws, this does not seem to be enough for the public to ensure the safety of all riders.
“I think the regulations are going to be a problem because the scooters are not particularly safe,” said Patrick Young, English teacher. “When I visited Busan over the summer, a lot of the scooters were in the Gwangalli beach and it was nice using them, but it is not completely safe as there is no dedicated scooter lane. An existing problem with bike lanes is that there are people going at unsafe speeds, and if you collide into someone with a bike or scooter, it could definitely be deadly. There would be serious accidents if 13 year olds also start riding the scooters.”