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Driver who caused accident had woeful record

Nov 06,2017
The driving record of the 76-year-old driver responsible for a truck crash last week that resulted in three dead - including himself - and five injured is in the spotlight after it was discovered the driver had a record of causing 46 traffic accidents since 2006, when he began working as a truck driver.

Responsible for 10 accidents in the last two years alone, the driver had a much higher than average rate of causing traffic accidents, even in the industry. Due to his poor record, his company previously suggested he retire, only to have him protest and file a complaint with the city government. There are no legal restrictions that would have required the driver to quit his job or retire.

Now, questions are being raised about a possible age limit for drivers who transport hazardous goods, given that older drivers are more likely to get into accidents.

In the accident in South Gyeongsang, a cargo truck carrying drums of machine lubricants smashed into a concrete guardrail last Thursday afternoon shortly after leaving the Changwon Tunnel, setting off a fireball that engulfed nearby vehicles and caused three deaths, including the driver of the truck.

A representative of the Coalition for Transport Culture, a civic group dedicated to transportation issues, said, “There is a high probability that this was a man-made disaster given that the driver didn’t use his turn signals or car horn just before crashing into the guardrail.” The truck driver was zig-zagging across lanes prior to the crash according to witness accounts.

Police also noted that the truck exceeded the cargo load and speed limit before crashing. In a briefing last Friday, the Changwon Jungbu police in South Gyeongsang reported, “The truck carried some 7.8 tons of inflammable substances including lubricants and rust-preventing oil in twenty-two 200-liter (52.8-gallon) barrels and one hundred seventy-four 20-liter plastic drums.”

Under Korea’s Road Traffic Act, vehicles may only carry loads that weigh up to 110 percent of their weight. The 5-ton truck was carrying 2.3 tons over its load limit. Also, while the Motor Vehicle Management Act stipulates that vehicles weighing over 3.5 tons must have devices installed to prevent them from driving over 90 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour), the truck was moving at around 100 kilometers per hour. Police are also investigating whether the lubricant manufacturing company in Ulsan whose goods the driver was transporting is to blame. In CCTV footage that captured employees loading the truck, police found that the oil containers were placed in cargo boxes without lids and that the goods were not fastened tightly or securely covered.

The accident may also involve a violation of the Safety Control of Hazardous Substances Act, which requires hazardous goods to have their exterior completely sheathed in fire resistant material or be transported in tanker trucks. There is also a possibility that something was wrong with the truck, which was a 2001 model. CCTV recordings showed that strange rays of light were coming from the back of the truck near the license plate just before the crash.

BY CHOI EUN-KYUNG, KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]