Happy New Year, again! The Lunar New Year holiday is widely recognized as one of the most important Korean holidays.

Families gather to reaffirm ties, wish each other good health and fortune and many perform rites to honor their ancestors. This year, more than 30 million people -- an incredible 75 percent of Korea's total population -- are expected to travel between Jan. 23-28.

Because of this huge influx in travel, we need to be extra vigilant about traffic safety. If you're planning to travel, expect heavy traffic and long delays. Travel time on the expressways and highways will take as much as three times longer than normal travel times.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usag-yongsan/2864699561/" title="USAG-Yongsan Commander Col. Dave Hall by usag.yongsan, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3190/2864699561_94840091a9_m.jpg" width="192" height="240" alt="USAG-Yongsan Commander Col. Dave Hall" align="left" hspace=10 vspace=10 /></a>Unfortunately, last year, there were more than 1,500 reported traffic accidents, 56 fatalities, and 3,015 total injuries during this five-day holiday period.

To mitigate any safety threats during this important holiday, I have put in place measures to reduce military traffic from Jan. 23-28. During this holiday period the road condition will be RED, which means only essential military traffic will be on the road and only with proper authorization.

Folks, the Department of Defense loses more Servicemembers and Civilians due to motorized-vehicle accidents than any other accidental cause. Among accidental deaths of Soldiers not deployed in 2008, 158 soldiers were killed or permanently disabled in off-duty privately owned vehicle accidents.

Sadly, alcohol is one of the factors in these accidents. With any holiday comes celebrations and with many celebrations comes an increase in the consumption of alcohol. This obviously increases the number of intoxicated drivers on the roadways. Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal, unethical, unprofessional and extremely dangerous. Remember, the blood alcohol content limit on and off military installations in Korea is .05 percent. I will not tolerate those persons under my command who choose to drink and drive, and neither should you.

In addition to military traffic, I encourage you to minimize all noncritical driving next weekend. I encourage all our Soldiers, Civilians and Family Members to experience the wonderful places and events, the people, land and culture of Korea. But, keep safety at the forefront of your mind.

In keeping with the Senior Commander's guidance, "Under the oak tree counseling" and detailed safety briefings are critical to success. I expect leaders at all levels to focus on off duty safety, the buddy system, and drinking and driving. Other tips are to check on weather forecasts and road conditions prior to travel. Finally, a reminder to review USFK Policy Letters on off-limits areas and curfew. This is a Team effort. Let's stay safe, and again -- Happy Lunar New Year!

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16