This is a subjective assessment based on observations made during thousands of hours of driving under every kind of conditions and in all parts of the peninsula during most of the past twenty years. It isn’t a country one would suspect could be so flagrantly profligate in the allocation of such an expensive and essential energy product, yet no other conclusion can be drawn, given the observable facts.
The reader may ask, “Who is responsible? Where does the loss occur? What happens to cause the fuel to be wasted?” The answer is simple: “Look around! It’s everywhere before our eyes!” More to the point, if you are driving (and I am), you are one of many who will be burning fuel unnecessarily. It is nigh impossible to drive more than a few hundred meters through developed zones of the country where traffic signals are present at intersections and crosswalks, and not spend long minutes, engine idling, but with no pedestrian or motorized traffic requiring the right-of-way.
A significant number of motorists, out of frustration, impatience or both, simply ignore the offending signals and shoot through, adding hazard to the already significant burden where a safe crossing should be routine. The picture is more puzzling still since the nation is touted as one of the most technology-webbed countries anywhere. Why, then, does it not show any inclination to embrace traffic-control technology, based on sensors and demand-driven signals, used for decades in the US, so widely imitated here in other ways?
One wonders why the vernacular press journalists, in their zeal to uncover the failings of everyone in sight but themselves, haven’t taken up positions near intersections and crossings to count traffic and analyze flow patterns just as engineers do before making decisions on the design of public streets and roads? It should not be necessary to yield crossing space to pedestrians and vehicles when none are present. Doing so shuts down normal traffic flow, creates safety issues, adds to the already formidable stress of driving, increases trip time for motorists, runs up unnecessary fuel costs and wastes an energy resource of diminishing availability and rising cost?
Why is it necessary that traffic must stop for one minute out of every five to ten at intersections with streets leading to the homes of very important persons, when that dignitary enters the busy thoroughfare no more than once or twice in a day? Why is it necessary to stop traffic every few minutes of an entire day in zones where far the greatest proportion of daily traffic occurs within a window of 2-3 hours. Why does it appear that traffic engineering officials are not asking these questions or observing these conditions themselves and acting to alleviate the problems?
The new administration of President Lee Myung-bak is an opportunity to set things right, or at least attempt to do so. One wishes every newly elected leader success for the sake of the governed. The familographer urges that, instead of pie-in-the-sky dreams of grandiose, but poorly studied plans for vast environmental transformations as the anachronistic “Grand Canal” scheme, the president turn instead to far more practical and, in the far shorter term, promising policy of replacing unnecessary fixed-rotation crossing signals with sensors and cross-on-demand systems, while preparing the public for the adjustment through education programs that will alert citizens to the heightened need to obey the new signals without fail, knowing that the rights-of-way are in use by real people. No more will it be safe for motorists to blow through crossings and intersections at high speed against the red lights because it is almost always true that, aside from that red light, there is almost never any other reason not to do so.
Ideally, of course, the goal should be to to get people out of their cars and away from the dependence on imports of fuel for transportation. There are many other ways to accomplish this in the long term, but for the time being, let’s do something to end this daily waste of a million liters of guzzeline.