The Osaka District Court on Friday sentenced a 51-year-old man to 10 years in prison for killing two people, after he suffered a bout of epilepsy while driving his minivan in Higashi-Osaka in 2015.
The court heard that Makoto Ikuno lost consciousness for a few seconds at around 7:30 a.m. on March 5, 2015, Fuji TV reported. The minivan was going at more than 100 kilometers an hour when it crashed into a car at an intersection, and then hit two male pedestrians, aged 40 and 37, killing them. The driver of the car was seriously injured.
Ikuno was charged with reckless driving resulting in death. He admitted to police that he suffered from epilepsy and that he had not been making regular visits to his doctor, as he was supposed to.
After his arrest, Ikuno said that he felt nauseous a few minutes prior to the accident. The presiding judge said he should have stopped his vehicle immediately and said it was irresponsible of Ikuno to keep driving.
Ikuno was charged under a law that went into effect in 2014 in which anyone who suffers from epilepsy and wants a driver’s license must submit a letter from a doctor affirming that they are OK to drive. Ikuno did not get such an affirmation from his doctor.
Under the law, causing death while driving drunk or as a result of a chronic condition, such as epilepsy and hypoglycemia, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Furthermore, anyone who hides a medical condition that may affect their driving when they apply for a license faces a penalty of one year in jail and a fine of 300,000 yen.
Medical professionals who are aware that their patients suffering from epilepsy or schizophrenia are driving, are required to report it to public safety authorities.
Prior to 2014, the maximum imprisonment period for causing deaths due to reckless driving was 20 years, but a loophole in the law meant that the severest penalty only applied to "incidents occurring under normal driving conditions." Because of this, most cases were labeled as involuntary manslaughter where the maximum sentence was only seven years.
The 2014 law changed the way courts deal with cases and sentencing. It expanded on existing regulations by stating that under the influence of alcohol, drugs and "special illnesses," the normal ability to safely operate a vehicle is severely impeded and can lead to fatal casualties. The term "special illnesses" refers to conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia.© Japan Today