“Korean Dynamism” and Road Fatalities

The latest International Transport Forum report has data on motor crashes and deaths in 32 countries for 2010-11.  It’s a morbid but interesting way to compare Korean and Japanese decision making, the former being considered more impulsive and “dynamic,” the latter being considered more cautious.  The amount of road fatalities in Korea in 2010 (5,505) was almost equal to that of Japan’s (5,745), despite Japan having significantly more cars and almost 2.5 times the population.  So in terms of auto deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Korea’s rate is almost 2.5 times higher than Japan’s.  Of course, no one can know to what extent the numbers reflect styles of decision making, levels of development and/or government policy.

Comparing auto deaths and development is interesting.  The line graphs on page 15 of the report allow you to compare the rate of auto deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in each country since 1970.  Most countries’ lines slant from the top left to the bottom right, showing at least an eyeball correlation between development and fewer auto deaths per 100,000 peeps.  Countries that peak in the 90’s along with Korea are in Southern and Eastern Europe, which makes sense in terms of development, however Korea’s bulge in the 90’s is so egregious that it stands alone.  In terms of seat-belt wearing, Korea does predictably terribly.  Its rate of backseat passengers wearing seat belts is dead last among all nations in the study.

For the record, it’s hard to improvise a quick solution to not being buckled in during an accident.

The Korean government has been doing a better job of reducing road fatalities since the high-water mark of the 90’s, back when Korean roads were simply paved slaughterhouses, however it missed its most recent fatality-reduction goal set for 2010 by a whopping 17%.  Also, one category of motorist has been seeing a surge in deaths in recent years.

Can you guess which one?

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of motorcyclists killed rose by 31%.  This is complete conjecture on my part, but maybe the surge in motorcycle deaths is related to increases in in-home food delivery over that time.  Lots of these delivery guys are younger men around peak testosterone age, which insurance companies will tell you is a risky demographic.

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