86 teenagers have died while on delivery rounds since 2010. Drivers hired by small businesses lack insurance and must work during harsh weather conditions. While accidents caused by delivery driving are increasing, their employers are not assuming any responsibility.
The rain hits hard against the CUK dormitory windows and the trees are swaying violently back and forth, a sign that the upcoming typhoon has arrived. The city feels almost empty, people are requested to stay inside and to not leave the house unless it´s necessary. However, in the midst of the storm, there are still single spotlights speeding up and down the streets. Dressed up in full raingear, a driver looks unaffected by the blistering storm as he races against the clock to avoid giving cold food to unhappy students. The lit-up scooters roaming the streets are the food delivery drivers, living the dangerous life to provide food for Korean citizens no matter the weather conditions.
“It’s a speed competition because they get paid by how many times they deliver,” said 21 year-old CUK student Jeong Seok Lee, majoring in environment and biotechnology. He adds that from an outsider’s point of view, the system seems fast and convenient. But when the orders are stacking up, delivery drivers try to deliver food to as many different locations as fast as they can to increase their salary, leading them to take greater risks in traffic.
If you’re in a car, on a busy street or in a park, food delivery mopeds are something you won’t miss. These delivery drivers won’t stop for a red light or slow down on crowded streets. These mopeds will disobey traffic rules, including driving on the sidewalk and exceed speed limits to get meals on your plate as fast as possible. The reckless driving has made the streets unsafe, as accidents often occur, with little to no responsibility taken by the restaurant owners.
I try not to order food if it’s a typhoon or blizzard outside.
Last year, a 17-year-old driver in Jeju Island lost his life in traffic, despite not being old enough to own a driver’s license. His restaurant had to pay a fine of 300,000 Korean won, but wasn’t charged for his death. A couple of months later, a senior citizen was run over and killed by a delivery driver who also hadn’t been issued a license. South Korea has become the fourth-largest food delivery market in the world, and the demand for food delivery is steadily increasing every year. This also leads to the number of accidents caused by motorcycles increasing as well. According to KNPA (Korean National Police Agency), 469 deaths and 15,365 accidents with two-wheeled vehicles occurred in 2018. SCMP (South China Morning Post) states that a total of 86 teenagers have been killed while on delivery rounds since 2010. Because of the death of a teenager last year on Jeju Island, more people are becoming aware of the hazardous work of food delivery.
“I try not to order food if it’s a typhoon or blizzard outside,” said CUK student Yoohoon Kim. Delivery drivers usually have no insurance to cover injuries or accidents for themselves and others. This is because most delivery driver services are employed by small business owners who can’t afford insurance or proper educational programs.
According to the Joongang Daily, only 5.7 percent of all food deliver drivers are part of a registered insurance policy that cover injuries. Drivers have a better chance at getting this kind of insurance by being employed by a major company.
Today, more people are ordering food online. The Korean Herald states in an article that seven out of ten Koreans order food via mobile apps like Kakaotalk or Yogiyo. The most popular food to order is fried chicken, followed by pizza. The convenience of ordering through an app means mobile app businesses are thriving, creating a bigger variety of brands for delivery services.
Reflecting this trend, it is common to see scooters with have brand-stickers and customized helmets to inform the public which company it belongs to. The workers are provided with safety gear to ensure the safety and reputation of the brand. Yogiyo, one of the major companies for delivery service, have even implemented an education program to make sure their employees are following the traffic rules.
However, small businesses do not provide any education or insurance to the delivery drivers, which gives the workers more reasons to ignore traffic rules and safety precautions. Instead, it is more profitable for the employees to rush every delivery to make as much money as possible.
I had one little accident. I was going very fast because I was late for a delivery and at a corner of a street, a car knocked me down.
Korea is not the only place where delivery drivers puts themselves in danger. Bastien Vidal, a French exchange student at CUK, worked as a food delivery driver for Foodora, a company which doesn’t exists anymore because of competing companies such as Uber Eats. “I liked the job because it was very free, I could choose when I wanted to work”. It was a good way for Vidal to earn money while studying, but the payment was based on the amount of deliveries. It didn’t pay well enough to do a few rounds, so, driving fast and taking risk was more rewarding for him.
“I had one little accident. I was going very fast because I was late for a delivery and at a corner of a street, a car knocked me down,” said Vital, adding that it didn’t hurt too much. Immediately after the crash, he just got up and continued to race the clock. Vidal didn’t receive any insurance as the work only counted as self-employment, the company was only acting as a link between restaurants and customers. The French delivery service is very similar with the Korean service system, were drivers lack insurance and risk their lives during working hours.
Fortunately, in Korea December 2018, a revision was approved by the National Assembly for the Enforcement Decree of the Industrial Safety and Healthy Act. This revision will put the responsibility on employers to prevent accidents and injury caused by delivery drivers. Still, more can be done to improve the safety for the drivers.
“To improve the current situation or working conditions for the delivery drivers is increasing their salary,” said Lee. To further increase their income, drivers wouldn’t have the urge to deliver as much as possible within a small time frame. This could solve the issues of constant driving through red lights and speeding just for a little extra money at the end of the day. Increased salaries would be an incentive for drivers to slow down and stop the stressful ways of food delivery driving, leading to safer streets for workers and the public.
As we can learn from delivery drivers from France and Korea, the workers care more about making a living than their own health. When Vidal gets up after being struck by a car, he is more worried about arriving late than losing a limb. The customers need to realize the dangers of food delivery. Don’t expect drivers to break traffic rules to save a couple of minutes, but instead, expect them to drive safe for the sake of themselves and others. Even if people are more concerned about the delivery driver’s safety during bad weather conditions, there are still scooters traveling back and forth in the dangerous typhoon. The demand for delivery is still there, showing little concern for the drivers as the employees and customers allows these harsh working conditions.
Meanwhile, outside the CUK dormitory, two drivers are waiting for their student customers to receive their food while temporarily taking cover from the intense rain under the entrance roof. The storm isn’t showing any sign of declining anytime soon, as one of the driver’s hands over the food and accelerates back out of campus. This won’t be his last delivery round for the night, but, hopefully, he will experience a brighter day tomorrow.