Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in the Republic of Korea, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The ROK's roads are well paved, traffic lights are functional, and most drivers comply with basic traffic laws. However, the Republic of Korea has a significantly higher traffic fatality rate than does the United States. Causes of accidents include excessive speed, frequent lane changes without signaling, running red lights, aggressive bus drivers, and weaving motorcyclists. You should be aware that motorcyclists sometimes drive on the sidewalks, and drivers of all types of vehicles do not always yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks. It is safer to use pedestrian underpasses and overpasses where available.
Some traffic laws in the Republic of Korea differ from traffic laws in the United States. Left-hand turns are generally prohibited except where a green arrow indicates otherwise. You may turn right on a red light after coming to a complete stop. Seat belts are mandatory. Children riding in the front seat of vehicles must wear a seat belt or use an appropriate child car seat. Passengers on motorcycles must wear helmets. If you are a short-term visitor and wish to drive in the Republic of Korea, you must have an international driving permit issued in the United States by the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). Otherwise, you must have an ROK driver's license.
In all accidents involving an automobile and a pedestrian or motorcycle, the driver of the automobile, regardless of citizenship, is presumed to be at fault. Police investigations of traffic accidents usually involve long waits at police stations. Police may take the passport of a foreigner involved in a traffic accident if there is any personal injury or a dispute about the cause of the accident. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common in accidents involving injury, even if negligence is not proven. If you are arrested due to an accident involving serious injury or death, you may be detained until the conclusion of the police investigation and legal process. When driving in the Republic of Korea, you may wish to carry a disposable camera to document any traffic accidents, even minor ones.
You are considered legally intoxicated in the Republic of Korea when you have a blood-alcohol level of 0.05% or higher. The ROK police actively enforce drunken driving laws and set up DUI checkpoints that are difficult to avoid. All drivers are required to submit to a breathalyzer test. Refusal to take the breath-test can result in cancellation of your license. Driving while intoxicated can result in significant fines and license suspension or even cancellation.
For specific information about ROK driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, you can refer to our Road Safety page. Also, we suggest that you visit the website of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) or call the office at 1-800-868-7567 and contact the national authority responsible for road safety.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.