Fine to be slapped for DMB watching at wheel
By Na Jeong-ju
Police said Tuesday they will seek to levy fines on motorists watching television while driving.
Violators of the TV-watching ban may face fines of up to 70,000 won ($61) and get penalty points. Those who get more than 121 points in one year will have their driver’s license suspended.
Drivers are banned from watching TV while driving under the current law, but there are no specific regulations on how to punish violators. Those caught using mobile phones are currently subject to a 60,000 won fine and 15 penalty points.
“Watching TV while driving is more dangerous than using a phone because it distracts drivers and makes it impossible for them to see ahead,” an officer from the National Police Agency said. “That’s why we need to reinforce tougher punishments for DMB watching behind the wheel.”
The measure came after three cyclists were killed by a 25-ton truck driven by a TV-watching driver on a road in Uiseong, North Gyeongsang Province, May 1. The truck driver told police that he was watching a soap opera while driving.
The incident triggered public calls for stricter regulations on not only using cell phones while driving but also watching TV. Police estimate that some 550 people were killed last year due to DMB watching while driving. It accounts for about 10 percent of the 5,505 killed in traffic accidents in 2011.
“In a sense, watching TV while driving is like driving under the influence of alcohol,” said Kim In-seok, a researcher at the Samsung Traffic Safety Research Institute. “Our own data shows that, of some 220,000 traffic accidents occurred annually, 10 to 20 percent are caused by drivers watching TV.”
Police said more than 62 percent of accidents occur due to negligence in looking ahead and warned of distractions such as dozing off, using mobile phones and watching television behind the wheel.
According to the General Insurance Association of Korea, a driver watching DMB has only about 50 percent of the ability to observe what’s happening in front of them compared to a driver not watching it. This is less than about 72 percent of the ability of a drunk driver whose blood-alcohol concentration is 0.1 percent, the amount subject to license suspension.
The institute said only 50 percent of drivers closely observe what’s happening while watching DMB. This rate is significantly lower than 80 percent for normal drivers or 72 percent for drunken drivers.
“Watching television while driving considerably lowers the driver's ability to control the speed of the vehicle and the distance between cars or respond to unexpected situations,” Kim said.
In the case of the Uiseong accident, there were no skid marks for about 100 meters from the site of the collision. It suggests that the truck driver stepped on the accelerator by mistake instead of the brake as he was very into the drama when the crash occurred.