Car Rentals, a Convenience with Often Disastrous Consequences

김강산l승인2016.09.02l348호 1면

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 When visiting Jeju Island, how would you get around to see the sites? Most people rent a car for their convenience. With a personal vehicle at their disposal, travelers don’t need to worry about bus schedules or even finding taxis. However, there are problems associated with this convenience. Often unskilled drivers take advantage of this service and as a result, many accidents happen. People can rent a car as early as one year after receiving their driver’s license, regardless of their real practical experience.

 So how is this possible? Let’s check the eligibility rules for vehicle rentals. We found that there are no strict requirements for renting a car, and that the rules vary from agency to agency. Most rental agents set a minimum age requirement of 21 years, and the driver has to have had a valid license for at least one year. However, some agencies also lend their cars to people who are as young as 18. What this means is that so long as you have a valid driver’s license, there is a rental car company that is willing to provide you with their services. However, this simplified means of convenience can result in some serious problems.

 According to our Road Traffic Authority, most deaths in rented vehicles were caused by people in their twenties or younger. Accidents occur predominately in August, during summer vacation. People usually rent cars in tourist areas, so the drivers are not familiar with the region. Statistics have shown that the main reason for the high rate of accidents for people in their twenties was the unfamiliarity of the unskilled drivers with the area.

 So how can we reduce the number of accidents that occur each year? Introducing control measures can help. For instance, average speed of car before an accident on Jeju Island is approximately 40.75 kilometers per hour. It is higher than overall average speed of vehicles on the island which is about 38.17 kilometers per hour. As a precaution against rental car accidents, the US state of Connecticut installed GPS tracking devices in their fleet of cars to keep a check on the travelling speed of their rentals. If the driver speeds, they are forced to pay a penalty. GPS tracking devices, along with speed-limiting technology that does not permit a driver to exceed a certain rate of travel, can help reduce the number of accidents associated with rental cars.

 The Korean government also requires its rental agencies let customers know how they manage their cars and the age of their fleet. However, there are no strict rules governing the cars possessed by agencies, so they may include older or even often un-serviced vehicles. The Korea Consumer Agency (KCA) inspected 30 cars from 30 different rental agencies in Seoul and Jeju Island, and 7 of the cars were found unfit for use. In fact the KCA found that none of the 30 agencies they inspected checked their cars for defects or kept any tests records for their fleet of vehicles.

 As I have illustrated above, an institutional framework is urgently needed to improve safety on the roads. Stricter rental laws and a system that regulates speed are necessary. Government should require both an age limit and mandatory previous operating experience. In addition, they should treat rental cars differently from private cars. A speed-limiting device or something similar should be installed in rented vehicles. Moreover, the government should also require the agency to consider the past driving record of renters. There were 6,233 rental car accidents in 2015 where 119 people died. This number has grown since 2014, where there were 5,639 accidents and 91 deaths. If we continue to ignore this escalating problem, the number of preventable accidents and unnecessary deaths will continue to increase. Government should procrastinate no longer.


김강산  dankookherald@gmail.com
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