crime

First arrests made under new Fukuoka drunk driving regulations

36 Comments

Police said Saturday that two men arrested in Fukuoka on Friday are the first suspects to be arrested under the prefecture's new, harsher penalties for drunk driving offenses.

The new penalties are part of a long-term plan to eradicate the practise of driving under the influence of alcohol in the prefecture, Sankei Shimbun reported.

Fukuoka Prefecture has been running a high-profile anti-drink driving campaign since August 2006, when a 22-year-old man drove his vehicle into the back of an SUV containing a family of five. The collision pushed the SUV through a bridge railing, and the vehicle plunged into Hakata Bay. The two parents survived with minor injuries, but their three children, aged 4, 3 and 1, died.

Further initiatives were tested to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. In May 2012, all Fukuoka city employees were ordered to abstain from drinking any alcohol for a month by Mayor Soichiro Takashima, after a scandal involving two city officials.

In August, Fukuoka Prefecture announced a comprehensive drink driving prevention plan that aims to eliminate the number of traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers. The new plan, based on the prefectural government ordinance on elimination of drunk driving, means that drivers arrested for driving under the influence are obliged to attend programs and watch videos designed to deter future offenses.

The plan also urges educational institutions, such as schools and universities, to discourage acceptance of underage drinking and help prevent drunken driving.

Meanwhile, according to city officials, more than 250 alcohol-related traffic accidents occurred in Fukuoka in 2011, Fuji TV reported. The local government plans to reduce accidents in the prefecture to less than 180 by 2014 by imposing stricter punishments on offenders. The penalties also include jail terms and alcoholism checks for repeat offenders.

Under the new regulations, establishments that serve alcoholic beverages could be fined up to 50,000 yen and have their names made public if they fail to adequately uphold public safety commission regulations.

However, some restaurant owners have expressed the opinion that some of the rules, such as that obliging establishments to ask all customers who are drinking alcohol if they came by car, are difficult to enforce.

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36 Comments
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Under the new regulations, establishments that serve alcoholic beverages could be fined up to 50,000 yen and have their names made public if they fail to adequately uphold public safety commission regulations.

This penalty is a joke.

Here in US, these offenders will be tried as DUI and some of them are prisoned. The DUI records are public information, It becomes available and used for insurance underwriting, financial and job applications. It is very difficult to find jobs with DUI record here in US. FYI

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I live in Fukuoka and yes, they are very strict here. People are in a hyperventilated panic attack if you drink even the smallest amount of beer or a ChuHi there is a Zero tolerance attitude here and there are frequent check points where they will pull you over and check to see whether you have been drinking or not. But yes, as Bruce said, many of Fukuoka's finest are sitting on their posterior derrière and do nothing or trying to look busy or spending too much time attending to matters that seriously can wait or be put off until another time. But that is another reason as to the growing NON-alchoholic beers are on the rise and more and more Japanese are changing to these beers. I have tried some, not bad, but something is missing a tad. I prefer the real thing, but Japanese in general are not that heavy of beer drinkers, most of my Japanese friends are ok with the 0% Alc. Free beer, but for me, drinking it on a weekly basis, don't think I could handle it. Personally IMO I don't think "one glass of beer" is that bad, drink and wait for about an hour or two and then be on your way. In LA, one beer is ok, in Europe, most of the time if you have one drink, the cops won't harass you usually. I don't think one beer can really impair your driving, sure it depends on age, alcohol tolerance etc. But what do some of you think? "One glass, wait and drive after two hours or NO alcohol at all?"

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I was fined heavily for going over the speed limit late at night in Fukushima a few years ago and had to go to traffic lectures and even had to pay for the lectures. I wasn't drinking at all. Now, I never drink and drive anyway but the fines in Tokyo for getting caught are very high besides losing your drivers license for a year.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The article leads with the arrest of two men, but no explanation what exactly they were arrested for. Grrrrr...

The new penalties are part of a long-term plan to eradicate the practise of driving under the influence of alcohol in the prefecture,

Did you say eradicate? Are they going to eradicate DUI like they eradicated murder and theft? Is somebody dreaming?

My understanding is that DUI related accidents are something like 5 percent in Japan now. And that is related, not necessarily alcohol being the cause of the accident. Would it not be smarter to move on and be concerned with the other 95 percent of accidents? Going all inquisition like on a guy who had one beer an hour ago is not saving lives. Its just mindless reactionary feel-good silliness. A natural extension of the over-reaction to that one accident on the bridge where the kids drown. Yeah, they drown. They were not squashed by a drunk driver. They drown. It was a freak accident. If there was no bridge, there would have been no deaths. Crikey, if there had been a better guardrail there would have been no deaths!

And what is there answer? Arrest bar owners for not stopping drunk drivers! And if the bar owners started handcuffing people to the bar? Arrest them for false imprisonment! This is whack-job thinking of people who seem to have never set foot in the real world and ever had to come up with a practical solution or identify a real pressing problem. People who hold people responsible for their brother's actions have pretty much lost it.

-2 ( +3 / -4 )

Zero tolerance is the ONLY way to stop the stupid and protect the innocent.

4 ( +6 / -4 )

The plan also urges educational institutions, such as schools and universities, to discourage acceptance of underage drinking and help prevent drunken driving.

Another fine example of insanity at work! Hardly anyone in Japan under 20 has a driving license! Many might have scooters, but the overwhelming majority will walk or use the train to get home. Even on a bicycle, the one they are most likely to kill is themselves!

The politicians are just using the public's emotionalism against them, and acquiring votes by grossly over-reacting to what is a mole hill compared to other issues. The roads would be a lot safer if the government paid more care to traffic signals, crosswalks, and as I mentioned before, guardrails. But those things don't stir emotions. They just save lives.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's one thing to introduce the penalties, but it is a completely different thing to have a pro-active police force on the roads 24/7 enforcing the regulations. Instead of a passive police force only patrolling at regular places and times.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Basically the cops have to look like they're doing something, so high publicity, low-effect "single issue" campaigns rule the day.

Jpns society breeds a really strong sense of obedience, so someone utters angry words or cops start some campaign and it is "kowai kowai".

In reality, as others said, the penalties are not strict enough to stop dui, and at the same time the alcohol levels are meaninglessly extremely stringent. Yeah, one beer an hour ago is something to worry about.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Yongyang i totally agree. People are ignorant about the facts when it comes to drunk driving. It's the number one killer of teenagers in the USA for example. And have one beeper and wait two hours is science fiction. Alcohol and metabolism takes closer to 8 no matter the amount. People who make exuces or say a little bit is okay only because they are trying to justify their own past and present actions. I have zero tolerance for drunk driving or people who try to justify that a sip is okay. I have seen people get wasted off two beers. There is no scientific way to differentiate these propel from someone who can have ten beers and be "fine". The only solution is ZERO tolernece. And getting the establments involved. I dont know about the uk but in the the USA to get a liquor license part of the agreement to get and not have your license taken away is that you can and will show responsibly when serving alcohol. You won't serve anyone that is wasted and it your responsibly to not let people drive home drunk. How times have ou been to a resturtuant and two guys are drinking beer with their dinner and lunch and their car keys sitting right there on the table. That is a good indication they didn't walk there! The restraint never says anything knowing full and well one or both of those poele are going to drive illegally because of alachol they served them!

-1 ( +2 / -4 )

The technology is available to have breath test machines installed in vehicles that will immobilize the vehicle if alcohol is present in the driver's blood system. They use this system for repeat offenders in other countries. I would like to see it installed in all vehicles, then the j-flops would be free to check all the bicycle registrations they like. It is obvious that severe penalties and passive policing do very little to deter the drink drivers.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I hate to break this to the J-cops, but harsher penalties after the fact will do nothing to prevent drinking and driving -- you need to actually enforce current laws. Don't just pull people over during 'safety country week', do it regularly. Or how about when you see a bunch of motorcycles, cars, or bicycles parked outside an izakaya where inside clearly everyone is drinking you go in and ask for keys?

If police wanted to find criminals they need only open their eyes and not wait for an accident to occur.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

What kind of penalties are imposed on the drunkards? For example, on second offense, do they loose their driver's license for good? Got to put teeth into the law to make it work.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Or how about when you see a bunch of motorcycles, cars, or bicycles parked outside an izakaya where inside clearly everyone is drinking you go in and ask for keys?

I can just see the whole nation going to hell in a handbasket because the cops are going around to collect people's keys!

Oh well, at least they might be too busy to enforce the "no drinking and dancing at the same time ordinances" no doubt invented by reactionaries with similar ideas to hassling pub customers..

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Regarding the 3 children who died when their car fell into the bay whose parents suffered only minor injuries - what's the betting they weren't wearing safety belts or weren't in child seats? I see unrestrained children in cars every single day in Japan, the police should get strict about that.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Would have liked to see the full penalties of the "new" six year old law: How much ¥ fine? Loss of driving privileged for months, years, etc. Ever quality for a "gold license" again. (insurance discount) How many hours of videos/lessons? Is this the "harsh" part? Are they going to fine every establishment ¥50000? (use phone locations?) Please outline what "harsher penalties" entails.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

StewartJG - the three children drowned because the parents weren't able to get them out of the vehicle fast enough. One little boy they weren't able to get out at all, and he came up with the suv. I agree that there are too many children not properly strapped in, but I don't see why you raise it with regard to that particular case.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Drinking is fine, just don't drive. Or popularize the use of designated drivers.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

However, some restaurant owners have expressed the opinion that some of the rules, such as that obliging establishments to ask all customers who are drinking alcohol if they came by car, are difficult to enforce.

Hey, grow a pair! What a bunch of wusses. They have a responsibility to not whine about protecting the public's safety and just do it. How about this? Take away every patrons keys and driver's license when they walk into the place, give a breath test when they leave, and if they have been drinking, they don't get the keys nor the driver's license back. And if they get into an accident after they leave, you are held responsible.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

They should lose their license. I bet they surely will be responsible if they think they are going to lose their source of income if someone has an accident. Is that too harsh? NO WAY. Losing your life because an establishment has allowed someone to get liquored up and drive after that is too harsh for the innocent person who gets hit by these knuckleheads.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

These laws are pointless unless there are police willing to put the time in to catch drunk drivers. In my area you see speed traps, cell and seatbelt traps but hardly ever a DUI checkpoint. They'd rather go out on a clear day or early evening to do these checks. You can pretty much walk past any Koban after 12am and not see their presence . After 1 am I'm sure they are all catching Z's waiting for a call.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@sandie. Have to disagree. Laws that try and obligate restaurants/staff are wrong. If someone drinks too much and does something stupid, it's on them, not the restaurant. Are you going to hold a liquor store responsible for selling a customer a bottle of whiskey too, if that person then drinks it in the parking lot and drives drunk?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

im all for laws only ti protect other people. its my belief you should be able to do whatever you damn want unless it affects another human or animal. think about this for a minute, and no doubt you'll agree.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

cleo StewartJG - the three children drowned because the parents weren't able to get them out of the vehicle fast enough. One little boy they weren't able to get out at all, and he came up with the suv. I agree that there are too many children not properly strapped in, but I don't see why you raise it with regard to that particular case.

Just a thought while reading this article. Children not being restrained in cars is a similarly dangerous motor offense in my country that should be clamped down on here, in my opinion. It's a very sad story though.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I pray to my God that none of you will ever be put through the horrible pain of either being directly harmed or as in my case loosing a loved one to a DUI. In the case of stopping DUI "better late than never" is good. Allowing some one to commit DUI is no different than some one firing a gun into the air, most of the time the bullets come down harmlessly, but there is always that one that hits an INNOCENT person.

Some one above said that DUI is only 5% of the accidents there. That means that once out of each 20 trips you make you may get hit by a drunk, is that really acceptable to you? Is any percentage of drunk drivers on the road acceptable to you, especially those of you with children in your car?

It is unacceptable for the engineers who drive your trains, for the pilots who fly the planes, of the helmsman who runs your ships to have ANY alcohol in their system, why is it OK for the person driving the car next to yours to have any in their system?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

50,000 yen? Really? You can get a more stiffer penalty for speeding. This is suppose to stop bars from serving drinks to drunk patrons? Really? They make 50,000 yes in a couple of hours...THIS IS NOT GOING TO STOP THEM! Arrests! Loss of serving licenses! Stiffer fines of 5M yen or more are more like it!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I wonder why so many J-cops don't actually do their job and enforce the law? Is it too much paperwork? Not wanting putting shame on people? Not enough commission (or none) from fines they hand out? Sit on any busy suburb intersection in within an hour you can easily loose count of how many people break the driving laws. I always thought it was just my cities police who are lazy but apparently not.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

IT seems to me that being in the police is not seen as that much different from any other government job. It's akin to working at city hall, or the prefectural government. Good salary, stable employment, benefits. The actual "job" itself is not that important. Back home, becoming a cop is seen in a very different light, and attracts different kinds of people. It's more of a calling, or a power trip, or whatever.

That's why there is so little pro-active policing and so much reactive policing in Japan. Also why it's approached from a bureaucratic standpoint- police actions are governed by what is easy to schedule and manage, not what is actually effective in preventing crime or apprehanding criminals. You would never hear a cop here say to his partner, "hey, let's go catch some speeders", or "how about looking for people who don't strap their kids into child seats?". Too random and too chaotic. Instead, "zero no hi" is the way to enforce the law. Stand on the corner, blow a whistle, and futilily wave a baton.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wait.. The mayor banned city workers from drinking alcohol for a month?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Bass4funk

Sorry, which Fukuoka is it you live in? Because it isn't the one in Kyushu, that's for sure. In 3 years here, using the roads pretty much everyday, I've only ever seen one police checkpoint for drivers, which of course had its red lights flashing so anyone could see them from a mile off and therefore make a convenient "detour" if they felt they could be at risk of arrest. Even during last year's Bounenkai season, nothing, nada, zip. Perhaps this is the reason why Fukuoka jostles with Osaka every year for the dubious honour of having Japan's highest rate of DUI.

Just last night, the car in front of the bus I was on had no lights on at night. A police van came from the other direction. Now, quiz time everyone - Did the police:

A) Stop the driver and check if the reason they had no lights on at night might be because they were DUI?

B) Flash the driver with their lights to let the driver know he was driving without lights?

C) Do absolutely nothing?

Policing in this country continues as it ever was; a bad joke.

On a police related note, does anyone know if you're supposed to get a crime number from police when you report something to them? I've had 3 occasions to do so, but have never received a crime number for future reference.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Does anyone know if it is an offence to ride a bicycle after drinking?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Simondb.

It is an offence as bicycles are classed similar to 50cc scooter and need to follow the same traffic laws. No riding on pavements, cel or headphone usage, no pillion till age 18, etc, etc.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Simon, and also no multiple riders on bikes, nor umbrellas allowed either. So what else u need to know?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Forgot to add no riding in groups for an easy chat, needs to be single file.

High school Student and Baba are the big offenders. Often turned a a corner and faced 6-10 high-schoolers riding in 2-3 rows and blocking the road.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One of the most liberal states in the US has a good way of dealing with "public awareness". When you're arrested for DUI the cops take the plates off the car when it's towed. When you are run through the courts you get back a special set of plates that let everyone know you are guilty of drunk driving. If you were really drunk or it's not your first time they'll find your spouses car and put the special plates on their car too. Your neighbors, cops on patrol, and other drivers all know you're a drunk driver. In the US the shame only goes so far, but I suspect in Japan it would create quite a stir.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here in US, these offenders will be tried as DUI and some of them are prisoned. The DUI records are public information, It becomes available and used for insurance underwriting, financial and job applications. It is very difficult to find jobs with DUI record here in US. FYI

The US laws are a joke compared to here in Japan. There is a close to zero tolerance policy in effect NOW. Fines for DWI are at 1,000,000 yen and a loss of one's drivers license.

DUI is 500,000 yen.

The kicker is that if you dont have the money to pay the fine you go to jail and work it off!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@VAST!!!!

@sandie. Have to disagree. Laws that try and obligate restaurants/staff are wrong. If someone drinks too much and does something stupid, it's on them, not the restaurant. Are you going to hold a liquor store responsible for selling a customer a bottle of whiskey too, if that person then drinks it in the parking lot and drives drunk?

I have to disagree totally with that. If you know they are drinking and you let them get into their car you should be severely punished. There is nothing wrong at all with making people responsible for what they sell, especially if they KNOW someone is going to be driving. And they should ask just in case for the public's well being. Also, yes, if you sell someone a bottle of whiskey and you know they are drinking it in parking lot and you don't do anything about it YOU SHOULD BE PUNISHED.

Forgive me, but I think we should punish people that sell alcohol to someone whom they know will be drinking and driving. It is way better than punishing the innocent bystander who doesn't know anything and gets run over, because someone choose to make money.

It is called being responsible for your actions. Especially if there is a chance that someone could get seriously hurt. Remember innocent person over profit any day of the week.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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