Author: Yoon Jung Lee
The Republic of Korea has long had a notoriously high number of pedestrian fatalities from road crashes. Part of the reason was high speed limits. The speed limit on national highways of four lanes or more was 80 kilometers per hour— even in areas where highways passed through towns or villages. After launching a plan to drastically reduce road deaths in 2015, Korea held a public contest for road safety ideas. The winning idea—dubbed “the village zone”—proposed reducing speed limits and putting in place special road signs and markings on sections of high-speed roads near population centers.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport adopted the idea and delegated the project to the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), a government research institute. Implementing village zones—known formally as “Protection Sections for Villagers”—required KOTI to build public support for reduced speed limits and win cooperation from local governments, the police, and other authorities. For a pilot project, KOTI and its partners installed 10 village zones in four regions by November 2015. During the next six months, road crashes in those zones fell by 42 percent. The pilot’s success helped KOTI build wide public and government support for the initiative, and by July 2018, KOTI had established 64 village zones in 23 regions.