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Revised traffic law to allow police, firefighters to act promptly

Emergency vehicles to be exempt from penalties for running red lights, crossing median

(123rf)
(123rf)
Drivers of emergency vehicles such as police cars, fire trucks and ambulances will not be punished for running traffic lights or crossing the median when carrying out their official duties, according to the revised Road Traffic Act.

The new act became effective Tuesday, the National Fire Agency and the National Police Agency said in a joint press release.

The law was revised to ensure that emergencies are handled promptly -- meaning, for example, that fire trucks arrive within five minutes after a fire breaks out.

Emergency vehicle drivers were already permitted to disregard some traffic rules, such as speed limits, if necessary to carry out their official duties.

But for other traffic violations, such as running red lights or crossing the median, emergency vehicle drivers used to be held responsible if they caused an accident.

The National Fire Agency and the National Police Agency said this hindered them from actively carrying out their duties.

The revised Road Traffic Act designates nine special cases where emergency vehicle drivers are not punished for traffic violations. These involve ignoring traffic lights, crossing the median, backing up, making U-turns, keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, passing other vehicles, parking, stopping, driving on sidewalks and taking action in the event of vehicle failure.

“The revised Road Traffic Act will allow field workers to actively carry out their official duties without having to worry about getting into a traffic accident,” said the National Fire Agency and the National Police Agency. “By shortening dispatch times and securing golden time, it will greatly help protect the lives and safety of people.”

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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