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An attractive bomb, ‘electric scooter’

  Don’t you often see people riding electric scooters at school or on the streets these days? In addition to an electric scooter carrying one person, you can often see an electric scooter carrying two people. It is also easy to see neatly arranged electric scooters and scattered electric scooters on the road. Since 2019, when COVID-19 appeared, the number of users of electric scooters has increased rapidly. Nevertheless, due to the laxity of laws related to electric scooters, incidents and accidents related to electric scooters continue. Why are electric scooters so popular today, and why are there so many incidents and accidents related to electric scooters? I would like to learn about electric scooters in detail, and examine cases of problems related to this, social reactions, and amendments to the law. First, let's look at what an electric scooter is in detail.

 

What is electric scooter?

  An electric scooter is one of the individual moving devices with an electric motor and refers to a means of transportation that can be driven by electric power by taking a scooter as a basic form and attaching an electric-related device to it. Recently, as the demand for electric scooters has increased, companies have made applications so that people can rent them easily. There are various representative electric scooter companies such as DART, GCOOTER, and KICKGOING. Each company has different usage fees, rental fees, service areas, and benefits, and even if the companies are the same, usage fees and rental fees vary from region to region. As a representative example, GCOOTER calculates the usage fee as the sum of the insurance premium called ‘GCOOTER Care’ and the ‘fee per minute’. The fee for moderate benefits consists of 550 won for ‘GCOOTER Care’ and 150 won for ‘fee per minute’. During late-night hours (00:00 to 05:00), the cost of ‘GCOOTER Care’ is calculated as KRW 1000. Then, when did electric scooters first appear? At first glance, electric scooters can be thought of as a recently emerging means of transportation. 

 But the first electric scooter was ‘Autoped’, which was launched 107 years ago by ‘Autoped Company’ in the United States in 1915, which was similar to the current one, but equipped with a gasoline engine, not an electric motor. In addition, it was easy to carry or store the handlebar by folding, and it was able to speed up to 56km/h. However, production was suspended in 1921 due to higher prices than bicycles, inconvenience without saddles, and the dangers of road traffic. In Korea, starting in 2019, as ‘non-face-to-face’ has become an important era due to the social distancing in daily life, a large number of electric scooter sharing service companies have emerged and the number has increased rapidly. As of June 2021, there are about 55,500 vehicles in Seoul alone.

 

Pros and Cons of electric scooter

  What are the advantages of an electric scooter? First, electric scooter has the advantage of convenience. Public transportation can be uncomfortable because of the fixed distance between routes and trains, but electric scooter can quickly get to the desired place. Second, electric scooter is eco-friendly means of transportation. Carbon dioxide emissions account for only 1-2% of automobiles. Using 100 electric scooters instead of one car saves more than 100 tons of carbon dioxide. This is the same effect as planting 16,000 30-year-old pine trees. Third, electric scooters have the effect of creating urban space. Since electric scooters are basically smaller in volume than other means of transportation such as automobiles, they can have the effect of reducing the size of roads. In addition, 10 electric scooters can be parked in a space to park a car. Finally, we can utilize big data collected by electric scooter. It is possible to analyze the driving data of the electric scooter and utilize it to lay the foundation for building a smart city. This is because electric scooter GPS data can be monitored in real time at the central control center to analyze the correlation between places frequented by users and public transportation. However, there are still more problems with electric scooters and they are serious. First, there are many safety problems with electric scooters. Electric scooter drivers will be shocked in the event of an accident because other body parts are directly exposed except for the head wearing a helmet. In addition, nearby pedestrians may also be exposed to danger because they can generally speed up to 25 km/h, much faster than pedestrians traveling at speeds of 4 km/h or low. Secondly, there are administrative drawbacks. Since most electric scooters are powered by batteries, its function is poor in winter. Also, if left discharged for a long time, permanent damage to the battery may occur, so it is important to check the state of charge periodically. In addition to the disadvantages of electric scooters, there are also several problems related to electric scooters. Let's look at examples of problems with electric scooters in the following contents.

 

Problem Cases related to electric scooter

A graph of the electric scooter traffic accidents

  Looking at the table above, the number of electric scooter traffic accidents has increased 2.5 times over the past three years (2019-2021). The Samsung Traffic Safety Culture Research Institute affiliated with Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance said 2,177 electric scooter traffic accidents were reported to Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance in 2021.

A scene from the electric scooter accident

 On July 26, 2022, an electric scooter accident occurred at an intersection in Palyong-dong, Uichang-gu, Changwon-si, Gyeongsangnam-do. The accident occurred at an intersection with yellow flashing lights, where two unmounted high school men on an electric scooter turned for a moment and the car coming from the other side couldn't avoid them then hit them. The two people on the electric scooter bounced out of the car and circled twice in the air. As you can see from this accident, if the electric scooter and the car collide with each other, the electric scooter will be so vulnerable that it rotates twice in the air. electric scooters are easily exposed to this risk because they are legally only allowed to operate on bicycle paths or on general roads. Also, it is not easy for car drivers to predict accidents because electric scooters can move freely between roads, similar to motorcycles. As can be seen from the aforementioned accident cases, the majority of electric scooter drivers do not wear helmets. However, if you use an electric scooter without wearing a helmet, you will be fined KRW20,000. It is often seen that two people ride an electric scooter at the same time, a fine of KRW40,000 is imposed if two or more people ride on one electric scooter. Also, you must have a license to ride an electric scooter. According to the law applied on May 13, 2021, a motorcycle license of 125cc or less is required because it requires a license above the motor vehicle license. If you violate this, you will be fined KRW100,000. In addition, there are several problems related to the revised Road Traffic Laws, which took effect on May 13, 2021. We will discuss the main legal matters related to electric scooters in detail in the following content. Finally, there is also a problem with electric scooter collection.

A photo of electric scooter left on pedestrian road

 As shown in the picture above, electric scooters are often left in front of crosswalks, next to roadways, in front of shopping malls, and at subway station entrances. The neglected electric scooter not only harms the aesthetics, but also hinders pedestrians. Even an electric scooter falling in a narrow alleyway has become a ‘Bomb’ for night drivers. To solve this problem, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is making efforts to specify the towing area for electric scooters, but the reality is that it is not easy to provide parking spaces for individual mobile devices such as electric scooters.

 

Social Status of electric scooter

  What is the current status of electric scooter usage? Law revisions, accidents, and problems related to electric scooters are emerging, but users are still considerable. According to the Korea Smart Mobility Association (KEMA), the number of electric scooters sold in Korea (excluding overseas direct purchases) more than doubled from 73,800 in 2017 to 164,200 in 2019. Considering that the nation's largest shared service ‘KICKGOING’, which operates about 13,000 electric scooters as of October 2020, nearly 1 million users are estimated to use shared electric scooters in Korea alone. The perception that only young people will use electric scooters has also been broken. In April 2021, electric scooter sharing service company ‘XINGXING’ disclosed the use of electric kickboard services in Korea using its operating data for a year. According to the data, users in their 20s (44.1%) accounted for more than 40% of the total, but users in their 30s and 40s (21.4% in their 30s and 20.1% in their 40s). The proportion of users in their 50s also increased by about 4% compared to 2020. In addition, with the increase in the number of electric scooter users, the domestic startup ‘OLULO’ opened a new chapter in the electric scooter market starting with the electric scooter sharing service ‘KICKGOING’ in Korea in September 2018. Citizens' reactions to electric scooter vary, but negative reactions are still dominant. Among them, citizens concerned about safety responded the most. It pointed out users who drive without helmets and cases where two people ride on one electric scooter. There is also a reaction that the electric scooter lying on the street almost fell. On the contrary, citizens who show a positive response to the electric scooter are said to be the optimal means of transportation to move anywhere. In particular, there are many situations where you run to avoid from being late on university campuses, but if you move on an electric scooter, you may not sweat by running. There were also many responses from citizens to the 'Helmet Regulation' on the use of electric scooters. Electric scooter users do not wear helmets for reasons such as, "The purpose of using an electric scooter is convenient, but I think it will be very inconvenient to carry a helmet and it is less meaningful to use the kickboard”. As mentioned earlier, the revised Road Traffic Laws took effect on May 13, 2021, and the contents of laws related to electric scooters were changed. There are 5 things you need to know for safe electric scooter use. The electric scooter described here refers to a device with a weight of not more than 30 kg and a maximum speed of not more than 25 km/h. Electric scooters exceeding this standard shall be subject to the electric scooter (Unified Classification)' standard, not individual moving devices. First, a license above the motor unit license is required. Therefore, if you have a normal driver's license, you can use an electric scooter. Second, only one person can board one electric scooter. Third, electric scooter drivers must wear helmets. Finally, since electric scooters are classified as individual mobility devices, bicycle paths, and road edge areas (roadways) must be used. Not allowed to drive on sidewalks and motorways as a rule.

 

  Since it has been less than five years since electric scooters have become popular and attracted a lot of attention, they are in a transitional stage with various laws and systems in place. It is true that electric scooters have many social problems, but if they are improved through cooperation between companies that provide electric scooter sharing services and countries, they will be a future-leading means of transportation. What we need to do now is to participate in the use of safe electric scooters in compliance with the above-mentioned traffic regulations.

양길웅  gilwoong0901@gmail.com

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