|▲ A crashed car driven by a 19-year-old man lies on a coastal road from the sea in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Photo from Yonhap News)|
On March 26th, 2019, a car carrying 5 students, all aged 19, crashed in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. The three young men and two young women were on a trip to the area when their rental vehicle crashed into a guardrail and fell into the sea. Notice anything unusual about this incident? Car rental companies require drivers to be at least 21 years of age and have at least one year of driving experience. However, none of the teenagers qualified for the company’s terms and conditions and yet they had no problem renting a car.
How was it possible for five unqualified 19-year-olds to rent a car? It was later learned that one of the 19-year-olds used the name and driver’s license of a 22-year-old neighbor. Regrettably, this is not the first time this type of accident happened and all these accidents have one thing in common, the lax identification procedures of car rental services. In 2018, a car driven by a high school student drove into a roadside building, killing four of its passengers and seriously injuring one. The passengers were all high school students; two male students and two female students were killed, including the driver, and one other male student was seriously injured. They rented the car from the illegal car company. In another case, a middle school student rented a car from a rental car company using the driver’s license of a 21-year-old friend. She ran the car into a barrier on a curved road because she had no driving experience. The car was severely damaged in the accident and the rental car company filed a lawsuit claiming 17.3 million won against her parents for the repair and towing of the car. However, the judge stated, “the rental car company claimed that she had put on makeup to look like the same person on the driver’s license she presented, but they were obviously different, even at a glance”. This means the rental car company neglected to check whether she was eligible to drive, so the judge ruled that the parents of this middle school girl should only pay half of the 17.3 million won in damages.
|▲ This photo shows the amount of using mobile car rental service. (Photo from Money Today)|
Compounding this problem is the fact that nowadays, many people can rent cars using mobile application or websites. All they have to do is choose what car they want to rent and the preferred collection location. There are two major problems with this procedure. First, car rental procedures are finalized without meeting the actual drivers; which means a person does not have to show their face and therefore, the company does not have to check the driver’s identity. In the past, to rent a car, we had to go to the rental company and conduct the transaction face-to-face. However, nowadays, there is no need to meet in person because reservations are done entirely through an app and users collect the rented car on their own. Secondly, the procedures for checking the identification of a renter using this method is lax. All you need to secure is an ID and password. This means customers can rent a car even though they do not have a valid driver’s license or even meet any of the company’s other rental qualifications. They only have to upload a driver’s license when they sign up for the app, so even if their license has been suspended, the company has no way of finding out. This lax car rental procedure exists because there are no penalties to enforce rental companies be compliant with the laws. In fact, under the current law, there are no regulations punishing either the company or people involved in illegal rental agreements. Moreover, the person who rented the car illegally will only be punished lightly if he or she causes an accident.
The Dankook Herald (the DKH) asked Park Sang-kwon, Research Fellow of the Southern Gyeonggi-do Headquarters of the Korean Transportation Safety Authority (KOTSA) about the government's response to the rise in rental car accidents. Mr. Park voiced his wish to educate youth, below the age of 24, about the importance of safe driving and abiding by the law. He also mentioned that there is a court ruling that states that if a minor misrepresents their age and causes a rental car accident, the parents of the minor who caused the accident are responsible for 50 percent of the recovery costs, while rental car companies are responsible for the remaining 50 percent, for their professional incompetence. However, if a minor misrepresents themselves and borrows a car using another person's identification card or company ID, the rental car company will not be held accountable. Also, the mobile application rental car company have to make a checking system using videotelephony to verify the driver’s identity. Mr. Park also hopes to create a system, which identifies whether the driver and the person on the license are the same people in order to reduce the risk of unnecessary accidents. Local governments, the Korea Transportation Safety Authority, the Gyeonggi-do Rental Car Association, and the police are currently cracking down on rental car companies by making regulations and improving the rental car company’s recognition. But admit they need a law that can actually punish companies that do not properly identify clients. Mr. Park also mentioned that if there was an accident; victims are eligible to receive damage support from the government through the KTSA. This damage support is divided into two categories: economic and emotional. A person or his/her guardian who is hurt in a car accident can receive a rehabilitation subsidy for medical care at hospitals in the event of a disability and a dependent subsidy to support victims aged 65 or older. There is also a policy to support customized services such as psychological testing, cures, counseling, and housekeeping for those injured in traffic accidents. Furthermore, there are psychological stability support services and voluntary service teams. However, a majority of people do not apply because they are not aware of this financial support policy. The mission of the KOTSA is to help victims overcome their damages and get back to their normal lives as soon as possible. Therefore, the KOTSA has imposed strict regulations on companies for rental car accidents. The interviewee mentioned that improve company, driver and governments’ as well as the law and punishment. According to the interview, the youth recognize how the complying is important, and revitalization call-center and video telephony system to check the driver’s identity better. Also, strengthen the punishment law to make unlicensed person drive and rent car.
|▲ There has been a lot of rent car accidents, especially in Jeju province.(Photo from Jejusori news)|
These accidents are not the first of their kind and will not be the last. However, we need to minimize the chances of these tragic events reoccurring. New laws controlling the rental process should be introduced. Heavier fines should be imposed for those who break the law and parents should educate their kids on road safety and deny their unlicensed children the right to drive. These policies will protect victims and their families. A decision to recklessly drive can cause a family to split apart from their loved ones forever and therefore this matter is not one to be overlooked or taken lightly.
신지희, 박근후, 채밍헌, 나승민 firstname.lastname@example.org