Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some Drunk Drivers to be Banned from Driving Buses

With the number of bus crashes in Korea rising to a record high, the government has announced that it will try to ban people with three or more drunk driving convictions from working as professional bus or taxi drivers. Transport Minister, 51 year-old Kim, said that "everyone gets caught once, but I think when you've been caught twice it should really be a wake-up call that if you're caught again you won't be entrusted to drive passenger vehicles any more." The Minister was keen to point out however, that not all bus crashes in Korea are due to alcohol, as some are due to technical failure, gravity, and falling asleep at the wheel.

The unexpected announcement caused surprise and confusion among Korea's many drunk drivers, who now face the unprecedented step of having their right to be entrusted with the lives of others curtailed in some cases. Kim, a 54 year-old bus driver in Korea's second-class city of Busan, says he has eight drunk-driving convictions, but only two of those were from when he was actually driving his passenger vehicle. "The rest were from when I was driving my car – I think it was my car anyway – but why should what I do in my own time cause me to lose my job? What I do in my own time is my own business." he told us. Kim says although four people have died on his bus in the last two years, in each case it was found to be due to brake failure.

Kim wants to know if the government plan now means he is classed as having two drunk driving convictions and is therefore safe to continue to drive passengers, or whether they will count all eight, which may mean an immediate ban because he doesn't know any good judges.

The move to stop drunk drivers with an excessive number of convictions from driving passenger vehicles comes six months after it was revealed that the number of firefighters with drunk-driving convictions had continuously increased since 2005. In those cases, the government was keen to stress that all the firefighters were off-duty when they were caught, although some say this is because police are not in the habit of stopping fire trucks for breathalyzer checks. The firefighters union pointed out that of their 36,014 members, only 807 had been found guilty in DUI cases in recent years which was only 2.2%.

If the scheme to stop drunk-drivers with three or more convictions from driving passenger vehicles is a success, the government says it is likely to look into extending the measures to airline pilots.

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