There has been an ongoing discussion in the Open Thread in regards to Korean drivers being the worst in the world. Haven driven in many countries I can honestly say this is not true. Koreans may be poor at following traffic laws by American standards, but that doesn’t mean they are poor drivers. According to the most up to date OECD statistics South Korea ranks second in traffic deaths per billion vehicle kilometers out of the 29 countries that are members of the OECD. However, the same statistics show that for road deaths per 100,000 people, Korea ranks fourth. Guess who ranks one notch ahead of Korea? Yes, the United States.
The way I look at this is that the Korean police do not strictly enforce traffic laws such as running red lights compared to the US police force. So that is why the Koreans do rank first in the OECD for pedestrian deaths, with 4.61 per 100,000. This far exceeded Greece in 2nd place with 2.86. However, on the highways the Koreans do have their speed cameras and an an excellent Interstate system that makes travel safe. Driving on the Interstate in Korea is not much different from driving in the US in my opinion. However, I think that since the US is so big that it has a higher number of road deaths than Korea per capita because of people falling asleep at the wheel and the poor weather people drive long distances through compared to the shorter distances in Korea. In Korea the danger for drivers is in the cities where the traffic laws are optional. Koreans understand this and thus know that taxis and buses may or may not stop at light. This is also why I always make sure all the traffic stops before crossing a street. Pedestrians definitely have to be more aware in Korea due to the optional traffic laws. As long as the Korean public does not demand the police strictly enforce the traffic laws nothing will change. Really the biggest things that get to me are the guys who park their Bongo trucks in the middle of the road causing traffic to merge and come to a snarl and the crazy motorcycle drivers who weave in and out of traffic and run pedestrians off the sidewalk.
So clearly the Koreans drivers are not the worst in the world when they are not even the worst in the OECD. The worst drivers I have seen are in Afghanistan with Iraq a distant 2nd. This Wikipedia page tends to confirm this belief. So many of the Afghans are on a narcotic of some kind it makes their driving erratic and even if they are not high most Afghans do not receive any formal driver’s training before hitting the roads. Throw in the fact there is no way to enforce speed limits and this all leads to deadly driving conditions. Driving in Korea can be frustrating, but it is no where near as bad as driving in a third world nation that has no traffic laws.