crime

Driver arrested after colliding with girl on scooter, then fleeing in Kanagawa

22 Comments

A 39-year-old Mainichi Shimbun employee was arrested for negligent driving resulting in injury and for fleeing the scene of an accident on Thursday, after he hit a 17-year-old girl on her scooter and then drove away without stopping.

Police said Yoshio Kusaka was delivering advertisements for the Mainichi newspaper early Thursday afternoon when his vehicle hit the scooter at an intersection in Sagamihara City. Kusaka didn’t stop his car and drove away from the scene, but returned about 15 minutes later, where he was arrested. He told police that he fled the scene in shock.

The girl was taken to hospital and is receiving treatment for the injuries to her chest.

© News reports

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Kusaka didn’t stop his car and drove away from the scene, but returned about 15 minutes later

Even if a pedestrian is drunk and running onto a busy road, the driver that hits them would still be considered guilty in Japanese law. This is why people have a habit of fleeing.

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Hope she has a quick recovery.

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there are more hit and runs here than any other country i've lived in

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here are more hit and runs here than any other country i've lived in

neverknow2 explained why this is. The law is not on the driver's side!!

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Its true - a friend of mine was in his car - completely stationary - at an intersection when he was hit from behind by a kid on a bike whose brakes didnt work coming down the hill behind him - and HE was the one arrested!

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Even if a pedestrian is drunk and running onto a busy road, the driver that hits them would still be considered guilty in Japanese law.

Not True, unless that driver is doing something illegal, such as drinking and driving or speeding, etc...

I can tell you first hand, having hit someone on a bike, they weren't hurt, but I wasn't even given a ticket. I know of two other instances, one in which an old lady was killed after she stepped into oncoming traffic.

But I do think they need to re-educate the driving populous in Japan. They seem to think that motor vehicles always have the right of way!

Especially bus drivers, these clowns think they own the road, after a couple of near misses, I always make it a point to follow the drivers to their next stop and "physically" Instruct and Educate them, that they do not own the road and they must give ample room when they pass runners, sharing the road with them.

They are all so big and bad behind the wheels of their 20 ton Buses until you meet them face-to-face...

LOL...

(Been there, done that, will do it again in a heartbeat!)

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I broad sided a car that went through a red light and they knocked me out, and they fled. Hikinige is the term for hit and run. Now I am stuck ding all the paper work to try to get the govt. to pay for all the expenses. I wish her luck. At least he got caught.

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by fleeing he basically asked for arrest, regardless if he was actually of fault for the accident. a not very wise decision in a panic situation. but some details about the accident shouldn't be reported as well?

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Mindovermatter, you are misinformed on this. neverknow is right on the mark. Japanese law regarding traffic offences is very simple - the larger vehicle is at fault. That's it. If a cyclist slides into a non-moving car waiting at a junctions - gear lever in "P", parking brake on - unless the engine is off and keys not in the ignition, the driver is automatically at fault. The same applies when a pedestrian bumps into a cyclist and gets injured as a result - the cyclist would have to pay for the pedestrian's medical bills...

This is on the statue books, and although it is not impossible to bypass, doing so is at the attending officer's disgression. You and your aquaintances have been extremely lucky. I hope that your luck continues during your stay in Japan.

Being in an accident where a pedestrian is killed typically results in a prison scentence... whether they are inebriated, infirm, elderly, or a teenager talking on a mobile phone whilst listening to an I-pod and playing on a PSP as they wander into the road on their merry way.

Perhaps the elderly woman in the case you refer to stepped out into a multi-lane road with a central reservation? These roads and highways are the ONLY roads in Japan where pedestrians are not permitted to cross whenever they want to with the consequences being for the driver to suffer...

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auntplum

Being in an accident where a pedestrian is killed typically results in a prison scentence... whether they are inebriated, infirm, elderly, or a teenager talking on a mobile phone whilst listening to an I-pod and playing on a PSP as they wander into the road on their merry way

I don't know what cave or what country you've been living in, but what you stated is absolutely ridiculous. I'll be the first one to say that Japan has some pretty stupid laws, not to mention the people have very little, if any common-sense and act like a bunch of 7 year olds...

Come on dude.... If somebody walks out into the middle of a busy road, expressway, highway, etc and gets nailed by a motor vehicle, "provided the driver did everything he could to avoid hitting the pedestrian."

Then he has nothing to worry about...

Now of course if he was drinking, taking drugs, speeding or driving with reckless and wanton disregard...

ALL BETS ARE OFF!

Come on dude, use some common sense.

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Sorry mindovermatter. This is Japan. Common sense is not applicable. A driver of a car involved in any sort of accident take a share of the blame regardless of the circumstances. If you are sitting at a traffic light and some clown rear-ends you, you are also at fault because you were in his way. I kid you not.

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there are more hit and runs here than any other country i've lived in

Without any actually factual data to support this, I’m not sure what value this has. I found some data from 1998, that states there were 5,129 hit-and-run incidents of all types in Japan. But finding similar data from other countries has been a bit more challenging. Anyone?

”a friend of mine was in his car - completely stationary - at an intersection when he was hit from behind by a kid on a bike whose brakes didnt work coming down the hill behind him - and HE was the one arrested!”

Sorry. Not to impugn the integrity of your friend, but I don’t believe this anecdote for a second. Not only would an actual arrest not occur in an accident of this nature, but also a bicycle, for the purposes of legal classification according to Japanese traffic safety law, is equal to a car in terms of what and how traffic laws are to be obeyed. Your friend’s car, having been stationary, as well as having been hit from BEHIND while stationary, even if it were by a bicycle, pretty much absolves him of all but the barest minimum of legal liability in his story. If he was, as he asserts, arrested, then it most certainly wasn’t for sitting in a motionless car to be hit by someone from behind.

I just spent a three hours this week chatting with representatives from three different prefectural police departments about the intricacies of road traffic and safety laws and came away with some relatively current insight into the questions that have popped up in this thread.

For one thing, it’s important to understand that Japan is NOT a no-fault country when it comes to assessing blame in the event of a traffic accident, either legally or for insurance purposes. By virtue of being in the streets in any type of vehicle, one accepts a minimum of blame in the event of all accidents. Certainly, there are exceptions to every rule, but this one is a fairly constant one. The significance of this with regard to the above article is that it is not strictly true that the man driving the car was somehow automatically screwed the second he hit her. He became screwed the second he fled the scene.

Two, a caveat to the above point, contrary to a somewhat popular non-Japanese sentiment automobiles are some sort of unassailable fortresses on wheels, answerable to none but the largest of rivals, Japanese law and society see things very differently. In the event of an accident between a pedestrian and a vehicle, the driver of the vehicle almost always bears the greater burden of blame, by virtue of simply being in something bigger/faster/more capable of inflicting harm. And by Japanese reckoning, why shouldn't they?

In the case of car hitting a pedestrian, it’s a no-brainer. 70kg versus 1 ton? Arguing to the contrary is like Mike Tyson trying to justify beating Yahoo Serious into a coma for insulting his mother. Doesn’t matter if Mr. Serious lacked good judgment in insulting a man who bites ears off for fun. Mr. Tyson is expected to exercise the greater restraint and care in maneuvering his lumbering human-wrecking ball frame though life. The same applies to drivers in Japan.

(And yes, if a pedestrian steps into a busy road, completely sober, all drivers, regardless of their state of mind, are legally required to come to a stop. If a driver hits that pedestrian, they will have a considerable amount to worry about. Doesn’t matter if we, as visitors to Japan, think it’s ridiculous or not; it’s the law. Obviously, there are mitigating circumstances in any situation, but generally speaking in Japan, hit a pedestrian with a car, you should expect your worries to expand considerably.)

In accepting the inherent responsibility of driving 1~5-ton machines, drivers of vehicles should and must, according to Japanese law as well as simple common sense, exercise appropriate care in not injuring or killing people around them in the course of using said vehicle.

Third point, driving in Japan, as in most countries, is a privilege, not a right. By accepting a driver's license and subsequently choosing to drive, one is accepting the consequences associated. That’s the trade-off, take it or leave it.

Japanese attitudes, as I said, are very different from what many foreign guests here may be used to, but it’s those attitudes that account for why speed limits in Japan are so comparatively low and why getting a Japanese drivers license can be so prohibitively expensive. It’s why Japan, both legally and for the purposes of insurance claims, assigns blame across the board in the event of an accident. And it’s also why, I suspect, Japan experienced only 5.7 traffic fatalities per 100,000 population in 2006, versus 14.3 per 100,000 in, say, the United States during the same period.

If the girl on the scooter were doing something patently dangerous or foolish, sure, the law would take her actions into consideration, assigning a greater degree of blame to her. But that doesn’t absolve the driver of the car from the greater burden of responsibility in the accident – as per Japanese law. Nor does the possibility of him facing potential harsh repercussions for hitting her rationally justify or explain away his decision to run. By accepting the responsibility inherent in driving a car in Japan, he should have stayed put and helped the girl out. Instead, he didn’t even take a breath to see if she was okay, and ran, thinking of little more than his own wellbeing. He’s a sublime asshat for that alone, in my book, regardless of how harsh Japanese traffic laws can be in cases like this. The only thing likely keeping him from a long jail term is that he had the decency to come back, albeit 15 minutes later.

Regardless, obsessing over the allegedly draconian nature of Japanese traffic laws makes little sense; it’s not any sort of State Secret that Japanese traffic laws are strict. Just as it’s no secret that Japan has a zero-blood alcohol tolerance for drunk driving.

Every Japanese driver on the road we see around us has had to sit through 3~6 months of notoriously detail-obsessed driving school classes. These rules of the road, as well as the consequences driving may entail, are pounded into potential drivers ad nauseum the moment they express even the slightest inclination towards getting a license. Among the biggies driven home are that pedestrians have the right of way in virtually all cases except where traffic signals are involved, and that the bigger of two vehicles in any given traffic accident will almost invariably bear the greater burden of fault.

Even if a pedestrian chooses to disobey the signal and step out into traffic, drivers are still legally obligated to stop and allow safe passage. No, they don’t have any leeway in ultimately hitting the pedestrian and later claiming, “Well, I had the right of way.” It doesn’t work that way here. The driver in this case will bear a large part of the legal responsibility. How much depends on the circumstances of the particular case, but odds are good that if the pedestrian is injured or dies, the driver will be in for a rough time.

Driving one of those big long-haul lorries, and slam into the back end of someone who decides to lock up his brakes to avoid hitting a cicada in the road? Again, the driver of the lorry is going to take most of the blame.

So, with everyone knowing these laws from the start, what purpose does it serve to rail against these laws, as if they’re somehow forcing people to flee accidents? I don’t accept that premise. The people who flee would have done it in any case, and not out of some sudden moment of clarity that compelled them to think, “Hey I just hit someone. I should immediately flee due to the unfair application of Japanese traffic safety laws in case like this.” The guy, just as he said, panicked.

But to suggest that supposedly unfairly harsh laws are compelling people to hit-and-run in greater numbers than if the law were more lenient is like saying fewer people would flee after murder if the penalties were a bit nicer. Traffic safety laws are harsh because they save lives, and the numbers bear this point out. Laws against murder exist to protect lives. The numbers may not necessarily support this premise, but we can all agree that the principle is sound. Can’t accept the consequences of murder? Then don’t kill anyone. Can’t accept the consequences of hitting someone on a moped with your 1-ton car? Then don’t drive.

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Heheheh, what if somebody jumps off an overhead bridge onto oncoming traffic? What if the person weighs 350 lbs falling at 15 mph? What if it hits a 200-lb scooter carrying a 105-lb girl traveling at 20 mph?

Anyways, laws are made to be changed, not set in stone. If people think a law has become stupid, they could vote to change it (thru direct referendum, or an elected official's bill, etc).

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My dear Mindovermatter:

If you do drive a car in Japan (I have driven approx 400,000km in JP, BTW), take note of Disillusioned and LFRA - this ain't the US of A.

If you are unfortunate enough to have an accident with a bike/pedestrian/cyclist, prepare to simply stand idly whilst the Polizia set-up, play with their measuring tape and chalk, sporadically bark questions at you, and generally have a thoroughly good time for a couple of hours. Then, count on being escorted to the police station to be interrogated. You'll no doubt have to tell your version of the events numerous times as the officer in charge will attempt to write a report in which you effectively accept all blame, unless you are extremely forthright and determined. You signing his preferred report gets things done and him on his way home quicker - but gets you a lot of points, a ban, and a stint back at driving school, or worse.

Be prepared to stay in that interrogation for a number of hours - best to block off 4 hours in the calendar for the whole thang. Expect to have your concern of not being 101% fluent at Japanese negating your ability to give them the most accurate information possible, met with coercion, and the response that sourcing a translator will take a number of hours - within which period you would not be permitted to leave.

Expect to finally exit the Police station without a copy of the accident report, and with no record of what you have hanko'd, and without knowing if you will be given points, required to go to court, or exonerated.

Perhaps if you have this joyous experience, you can come on here and tell us all about your new found 'common' sense - no longer solely based on a vision of life imported from your home country thousands of miles away.

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FRAgain, good post.

BTW, 5.7 per 100k peeps is good when compared to the US - but that is largely becasue the Japanese have implemented a uniform driver training program and enforce the use of front seat occupant's seatbelts, whereas the USA does not. You may be interested that the UK has a road death ratio 3.6 per 100,000 - largely because of effective decades old drink driving campaigns, the enforcement of seatbelt use for front and rear sear passengers, and the use of child seats.

Factoring in that speed limits in the UK are a approximately double as high as Japan on non-higway roads, from a British perspective safety on Japanese roads is pretty sloppy... It is extremely rare NOT to see a child roaming about the entire car, no where near a seat or a seatbelt, and the take-up of baby seats is very slow. If this could be worked on by the authorities, thousands of lives could be saved each year on Japanese roads.

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If a cyclist slides into a non-moving car waiting at a junctions - gear lever in "P", parking brake on - unless the engine is off and keys not in the ignition, the driver is automatically at fault.

Total nonsense. I had a cyclist hit my car when i was stationary in a filter lane at traffic lights n route 16. The car behind confirmed to the police that this was the case and the cyclist admitted it too. The police found the cyclist 100 % culpable. No interrogation involved and the attending policemen took my statement, confirmed it with me and left it at that. The only reason that i received no insurance money for the damage to my car was because the cyclist was (naturally) uninsured and i would have had to have sued to get any compensation. Yet another example of people quoting hearsay and opinion as fact, and just for the record I have been driving in Japan for 8 years and have owned cars for most of them.

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Mindovermatter: Others who have commented on what you said are bang on, and you are incorrect, the person in the larger vehicle does bare blame. HOWEVER, you are not COMPLETELY wrong, and they are not completely correct. The driver of the larger vehicle takes a PORTION of the blame, depending on the circumstances of the accident, but it is NEVER a zero percent portion. Even if it's completely the person on the scooter's fault, the person in the car will be at least 10% to blame, lose any 'gold' status they had, and pay a higher insurance premium among other things.

"Come on dude, use some common sense"

It isn't an issue of common sense, it's an issue of Japanese road laws. You'll see common sense is lacking a LOT in that department.

In any case, nit-picking aside I can for a change kind of understand and believe that the person actually DID take off in shock. He wasn't caught at home and making excuses, he went back to the scene not too long after (probably he was trying to deal with what happened while he was 'away') and admitted to it all. The person panicked, and I'm happy the young lady will be okay.

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Machidaman: The only reason the way things happened the way you said they did is because all parties agreed and it saved all in question a deal of work. If charges were laid and you tried to get insurance money, you can bet you would have found your premiums increase. You would not have been arrested, and would not have been in big trouble, but you would have taken a small fraction of the blame. That's not hearsay, that's fact.

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Are we talking "criminal" charges or "civil" cases when we're discussing fault here?

If it's civil related cases (suing for damages/insurance claims) etc., there are tons of sites which indicates the so-called market % of fault for various scenarios.

http://www.kansaihokenlife.co.jp/part/which/

But if we're talking criminal, then "negligence" comes into factor so a truck driver who is obeying the speed limit and was exercizing due care got into an accident whereby a pedestrian suddenly out of the blue jumped on to the traffic causing injury to the said pedestrian are not subject to Article 208 and 211 of the penal code.

This was discussed back in October.

http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/man-found-dead-on-street-after-suspected-hit-and-run

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Machidaman, Smith is right. Let's take a step back for a second. What if the cyclist scuffed their knee on landing on the tarmac and required a couple of stitches? What if they were too embarassed to own up and say that they were at fault? What if the car behind simply drove off leaving you no witnesses (which is the absolutely normal case)? Now you are automatically culpable - and if the injured party requires extensive medical treatment, you are going to lose your license as a matter of course.

Take a trip down to your local driving centre and get a copy of the one pager that details points awarded for driving offences. Drink driving is (now) right up there with seriously injuring a pedestrian in an accident - 15 points plus. Two stitches in the knee would mean outpatient treatment for 30-60 days, so I believe you would be automatically awarded 6-8 points for that - a one month ban and a trip back to driving school for most drivers.

This is the reality - like it or not. As LFRAgain states: Can’t accept the consequences of murder? Then don’t kill anyone. Can’t accept the consequences of hitting someone on a moped with your 1-ton car? Then don’t drive.

To be honest, I have to ask why the police were even called in your case in the first place..? No injuries, cyclist admitting fault. Surely the cyclist would have just got back on their bicycle and continued their journey to Ito Yokado..? What was the issue? This shouldn't have even required police attendance - markedly different circumstances form the cases that we are discussing that relate to cases where pedestrians are injured or even killed as a result of a road traffic accident.

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Taxi backed into me on my bicycle and I didn't accept any of the blame. They took 100% of it because that's the way it was. They tried to get me to accept about 10% but I refused and they knew that's the way it was.

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I was out for a run one night, saw a black Yak car hit a cyclist. No idea whose fault it was. 3 Yaks got out, helped the guy up, fussed about him, and looked over the bike. 2 more Yak cars turned up 3 minutes later (I had stopped, slightly hidden, to observe and witness and it was also along my route and I was laying low)a wad of cash was handed over. Lots of bowing and muffled speaking took place and everyone went the separate ways. Nice for the guy on the bike. Jackpot.

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