Ever ridden your bicycle while holding an umbrella to shield yourself from Japan’s pelting rain during typhoon season? Well, congratulations on breaking the law, because that’s actually illegal.
Japan has several rules of the road that may seem counterintuitive to foreigners and plenty of police officers around to enforce them. You’re likely to be stopped for questioning by the local koban (neighborhood police box) because the police just have nothing else going on.
While most of us probably consider ourselves as law-abiding citizens, when it comes to getting to where we’re going, we tend to throw caution to the wind and overlook the rules. Especially when we didn’t know they were rules in the first place.
1. Police are cracking down on using cell phones while driving
In December 2019, the laws to prevent cell phone use while driving became stricter than ever. Motorists caught handling their phones to chat, send emails, or even look at directions while driving risk paying an ¥18,000 fine.
Moreover, the Road Traffic Law states that cell phone use that causes “danger in traffic” will be regarded as a criminal offense, which could lead to a ¥300,000 fine or even a prison sentence.
To possess a driver’s license in Japan, you opt into a point system. Unfortunately, this isn’t Mario Kart, and having a high score means big trouble. It only takes six points to have your license suspended anywhere from one to six months.
Guess how many points using your phone will earn you under the revised Road Traffic Law? Six. It’s one and done.
The new revisions come after outcry over Japan’s mounting vehicular accidents and fatalities caused by smartphones. The Asahi Shimbun reported in December 2019 that there were 2,790 accidents and 42 fatalities linked to drivers distracted by smartphones in 2018. By the end of 2019, there were more than 2,237 mobile-related accidents and 30 deaths.
Overall, police identified some 840,000 cases of illegal mobile device use among drivers last year.
2. Riding your bicycle on the sidewalk is illegal
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