Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Driving in Korea: Traffic Cameras

One of the worst things about driving in the US is the paranoia. It often seems that the main duty of police departments in many states is to trap and ticket errant speeders - on the highway, in the city, or on a dirt road behind your house. No matter where you go, a cop has the jurisdiction to pull you over and give you a ticket. They lie in wait - in hiding - for HOURS, as if speeding were the nation's biggest crime problem. (It's obviously not, and everyone knows that it's how police departments get paid. In a budget crunch there are suddenly more fast drivers on the road!)

Speeding is not a problem. It seems much more dangerous for speeding drivers to be constantly distracted, worried that every shadow and light flash on the road is their next ticket, braking and speeding and changing gears and lanes, always attempting to outsmart or outspeed the law.

Korean cops don't really bother with traffic violations, at least on the scale that their American counterparts do. The police officers that are on patrol serve more as a reminder that they're around than a threat of any particular action. Though I've heard it's possible, I have NEVER seen a Korean cop in hiding, trying to catch an unsuspecting traffic violator. Police cars here literally do not turn off their red-and-whites. Ever. It's as if they are actually trying to PREVENT crime - imagine that! - drawing attention to their presence instead of slinking around in shadows and trying to catch you red-handed.

Perhaps this is material for another post. I'm slightly off-topic here.

Cameras have replaced cops in Korea as the babysitters of the roadway. Speeding is controlled almost exclusively by CCTV. Cameras with radar guns are mounted above the street at varying intervals to take pictures of speeding violators as they pass. Tickets are mailed to the driver.

Korea doesn't even try to hide the cameras - not only are they out in plain site, there are street signs WARNING you of their presence ("Police Enforcement CCTV in 200m"). GPS units - a staple in virtually every Korean car nowadays - warn you when they are approaching and tell you when to slow down.

[If you're speeding, the GPS flashes red and beeps to warn you that a camera is approaching - the red exclamation point in the video - and stops once you pass under it.]

Though this kind of enforcement might never fly in the US (*sob* violation of privacy!), it works for Korea. It's a pain in the ass to keep speeding up and slowing down every few kilometers, so drivers tend to maintain a consistent pace. It actually makes the police force seem like they're trying to solve a dangerous situation, instead of using a dangerous situation purely as a money-making scheme.


  1. Jonny, you forgot to set up your GPS to where it's telling you what to do in Korean at a constant rate. And to where a kitten meows when you have successfully passed the camera. And the HomePlus song plays when you drive near the store.

    What's your favorite Korean soap to watch while you drive?

  2. Anonymous9:31 PM

    what happens if you get caught speeding in a rental car and you returned the car few hours later?

  3. Depending on the rental car company, they will likely mail the ticket to the address they recorded when you rented the car, with your license information.


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