SEOUL, March 20 (UPI) -- Road accidents in North Korea appear to have increased in recent years with members of the elite class driving recklessly or under influence, South Korean experts said.
South Korea's Road Traffic Authority said Wednesday that recent research shows there has been an significant number of media reports in the North, warning against road accidents since 2012, after Kim Jong Un took control of the regime.
A study conducted by Kangwon National University shows that, in 2013, North Korean authorities released a notice on "strictly punishing those who curb traffic order or do not prevent road accidents properly."
It warned against driving under influence or without a license as well as hit-and-runs, threatening to impose fines, confiscate licenses and even vehicles.
Another publication in 2015 condemned traffic breaches as "seriously improper acts that prevent the construction of a strong socialist country."
While there were no reports on specific incidents in the North, Pyongyang's media outlets criticized road accidents in other countries including South Korea, Japan and the United States.
Researchers who conducted the study said this indicates the regime's efforts to minimize the impact of road crashes within its borders.
Most of the accidents are caused by drunk or reckless driving, the research team said, citing testimonies.
However, crackdowns on traffic violations are "virtually non-existent" as regulators cannot exert their authority on high-ranking members of the regime who "drive imported cars."
"In North Korea, the act of driving a car shows power and authority so speeding or driving reckless or under influence is seen as a show of status," the report said. "Even with orders from Kim Jong Un, it is difficult to crack down on the cases."