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Japanese editorial excerpts -2-.

TOKYO, Jan. 23 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the Japanese press:

HALTING DRUNK DRIVERS (The Japan Times, an English-language daily)

The National Police Agency's proposal to stiffen penalties for drunk driving reflects recent public demand for severer punishment of drunk drivers. At the same time, the proposal prods the public to drastically change its own attitude toward drinking and driving.

The proposal not only calls for stiffer penalties for drunken drivers but also envisages applying the same penalties to those who provide alcoholic beverages to potential drivers or vehicles to drunk drivers. It prohibits people from riding in vehicles driven by drunk drivers, stipulating punishment for violators. The proposal will be written into a revised Road Traffic Law. The NPA hopes that the revision will come into force by yearend following Diet deliberations.

Under the NPA proposal, a drunk driver would be imprisoned for up to five years or fined up to 1 million yen, compared with the present punishment of up to three years' imprisonment or a fine of up to 500,000 yen. Maximum imprisonment for a hit-and-run drunk driver would be doubled from the current seven years and six months to 15 years.

If a drunk driver kills a person in a hit-and-run accident, he or she could face up to 20 years' imprisonment under a 2001 revision of the Road Traffic Law. The severer punishment incorporated in the proposal is expected to help deter those people who drink and drive under the belief that chances of being caught by the police is extremely unlikely.

The current Road Traffic Law prohibits providing alcoholic beverages to potential drivers but does not stipulate punishment for violators. Law-enforcement authorities are now invoking provisions of the penal code against those who abet drunk driving. What is revolutionary about the NPA proposal is that it bans people from even being passengers in vehicles driven by drunk drivers. Violators would face up to three years' imprisonment or a fine of up to 500,000 yen.

Thus a person who does not have the courage to refuse the offer of a ride from a drunk driver could also be punished. People would have to keep in mind that when out drinking with friends, accepting a ride back home or to another bar from someone who has been drinking would be treated as a crime.

When it comes to the actual application of the new penalties, however, difficulty arises. Investigators will have to prove that a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver had prior knowledge that the driver was drunk.

Investigators may also face difficulty when investigating other types of abettors. Nevertheless, the NPA proposal providing punishment for abettors will serve as an admonition to Japanese society, which up to now has shown a general over-tolerance toward driving under the influence of alcohol.

The message is clear. Citizens must become stricter toward people who drink and drive. Refusing to ride a car driven by a drunk person may not be enough to reduce the incidence of drunk driving. Citizens are called on to gather the courage to tell all drivers to never drink and drive. (Jan. 23)
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Article Details
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Publication:Japan Transportation Scan
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 29, 2007
Words:525
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