Man arrested over fatal accident says he was drinking, fell asleep at wheel


Police in Mitaka, Tokyo, said Sunday they have arrested a 25-year-old company employee over a car crash that left a 69-year-old man dead.

The suspect, identified as Hikaru Ito, was quoted by police as saying he had been drinking and that he momentarily fell asleep at the wheel when the accident happened at around 2:40 a.m. Saturday, TV Asahi reported.

Police said a car being driven by Yasunobu Nakata was hit by Ito's car at an intersection and pushed along for about 15 meters. Ito kept going and his car was found 30 minutes later in a parking lot about one kilometer away.

Nakata was taken to hospital with severe injuries but was pronounced dead upon arrival, police said.

Ito told police he was drunk and fled the scene in a state of panic.

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Maybe they mean 15 meters, not 15 minutes. That seems impossible.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

So let's ban that dangerous drug known as alcohol!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

If you drive, don't drink; if you drink, don't drive. Alcohol abusers are not responding to public appeals, they have their own set of demons.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I know Japan has tough laws on drinking and driving and that if you are coming from an establishment either private or public they can be held liable also. If this guy was coming from some type of "mandatory" company event, will they be held liable? If so, that would just ruin most of the Japanese business world I would think when managers will realize that somethig like this could happen.

Not to condone drunk driving, and i believe that this guy should pay for his crime severly, but if I were him and his lawyer, and he did indeed come from such a company event, I would make sure that they were brought up into this case as well. I know each has an individual responsiblity for our own actions and I hope he pays for his, but at the same time here in Japan, the "company" puts such an emphasis on taking away a persons individuality and maybe it is time they are held accountable for some of these tragic incidents as well.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Hmmm, do you think drinking has something to do with the record high number of driving fatalities in Tolyo last month? Of course it does! Japan has some of the most severe drink driving penalties in the world, but they mean nothing with a passive police force that only get out of their kobans to enforce it during campaign and holiday periods. The Japanese police are predictable. The drink drivers know this and dodge them regularly. I've been pulled over for RBT by the J-police half a dozen times. Only once was I asked to blow into the machine. The other times the cop just asked me to breathe into his face, which I thought was some kind of joke.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

While I feel drinking establishments have a responsibility to talk you out of drinking and driving they can't follow every person out and make sure they are not driving. I have noticed in the past year that a few of my favorite izakaya have started asking when we go in if anyone is driving! Alphaape, I can't really agree with you here: I feel that companies should not be punished when an employee like this drives drunk from a so called forced party. I often attend such forced parties and I do not drive or I do not drink if I'm driving. You have to be responsible for yourself! I've been here over 26 years and I've never driven after drinking here. Most times I have to say I can't drink coz I'm driving. No penalties or Shame have been placed on me ever! If you are not responsible enough to say no or to just leave your car then you're not resonsibje enough to have a drivers license. And with the daiko taxi system there is no excuse to drive drunk even if you can't leave your car!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

By the time posted, it appears there might have been a company event earlier and a second or third party for this individual. Either way, a loss of life due to his selfishness. Sad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How about instituting the "designated driver" system in Japan? In the US bars give the designated driver a patch to wear on his or her clothes, gets to drink all the juice or soft drinks they want for free in return for driving the rest of the people home. Companies could pickup that tab and being the DD would be a great excuse for people who want to attend the drinking parties to further their career but don't want to have hangovers the next morning.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Drink driving is really stupid. Drink driving and falling sleep behind the steering wheel is even more stupid and idiotic. Let him rot in the jail.

I'm sorry for family of old man that idiot drunk driver had killed in accident.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Drivers who ignore Japan's driving laws may find judgment more swift than the courts.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Those "holding responsible laws" have yet to be enforced as far as I can tell. That company should be held responsible, too.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@ Viki Lyn Paulson-Cody: I agree with your points, and the bottom line it is up to the individual, but the way the law is written, the authorities can go back and fine the bar/establishment where you were drinking, and if it is a personal party the individual host. Also, if you are riding in the car with a drunk driver, you can also be held liable. The point I was making is that if they are going ot go after all of those people in an incident, then I think being forced to go to a mandatory work party is just as liable. After all, say this guy was at one at some local driking establishment and the prosecutors want to charge them in this case. Then I would at least think the company has some liability.

I agree, it is an adult choice one needs to make, and I am sure you know that there are some who will not make a stand like you have.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Alphaape: I'm with you on the charging a company for the event if an employee drives home drunk afterward and is caught, although it sounds a little like you are not really in favor of the current laws holding establishments responsible. If they are going to hold enkais and what not, it's up to them in part to assure that anyone drinking will not later be driving home. Japan's laws aren't really strict on drunk and driving, just the penalties are after the fact. You can still go to any store at any hour of the day and buy alcohol, even if you're already too drunk to physically pick up a can or bottle, they have enkais for everything under the sun, and you can still even get alcohol from vending machines!

Put a limit on times you can buy alcohol. Start having convenience stores and drinking establishments cut off and/or not sell to a person who is already clearly drunk, and have the establishments lose their liquor licenses for a certain period of time if they are caught selling under such circumstances. Maybe have police set up road stops for checking outside of the same "safety week/month" every year, and especially around the "big three" enkai seasons. Same with companies in terms of bearing responsibility.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

although it sounds a little like you are not really in favor of the current laws holding establishments responsible

@ smithinjapan: To be fair, I don't really think that the establishments should be held at all. My point was, if you are going to hold them responsible, then why not the companies. I am big on the personal responsibility of the individual. I can agree with holding establishments accountable by shutting off the sale of liqour after a certain hour and if the person seems too drunk for their own safety. But I think that the responsiblity ends there.

A long time ago on a US tv show caled "Frank's Place" they had an episode similar to the laws here in Japan. A well known patron of the bar (Frank's Place) was proven to have knowingly get too drunk and get involved in an accident killing himself. HIs family sued the business since they thought it was the bars fault for selling him. Of course in the manner of 1 hr tv shows the case was thrown out, but these cases can happen, especially with the laws as I understand them here in Japan. Why would me and my business be held liable for someone who willingly drinks and drives.

But I realize life is more complicated than a TV show, but it does bring the issue into question.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Bottom line is "tough drink/driving laws" means sweet FA if the police aren't going to enforce them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What a load of rubbish. There is nothing at all in the story that indicates that the man was at a company event (until 2:40am!) but even if he was, why on earth should the company be responsible? (Unless of course they somehow demanded that he drink and then demanded that he drive home). This country has trains, taxis, and taxis that will come with a spare driver to take your car home. Speaking as a grown adult, I find the suggestion that a company should be responsible for me finding my own way home in a safe and legal fashion to be downright offensive. This country (for all of its may positive points) already has far too much collective responsibility, which in reality means nobody really takes responsibility. One person is very clearly at fault here, and hopefully he'll be punished appropriately.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Alphaape: "Why would me and my business be held liable for someone who willingly drinks and drives."

That depends. If it's in the middle of a city, say, and you have absolutely no way of knowing if a person drove or not, then under the current system I don't think an establishment should be charged. However, I think they should be required to ask, same as you are required to push a button (not enough) any time you buy alcohol or tobacco in a convenience store, particularly if they are catering to a large group (enkai) they should ask if anyone is driving and who that person if there's a driver. In the cases where a parking lot is adjacent to the establishment or where they can clearly see a person drove then they SHOULD be held responsible if they served a person who later gets in an accident. I realize this loses some business for establishments and creates tension, or could create worse if the customer takes offense (and blows a gasket as is sometimes the case here), but I'd rather have that than others dead at the hand of drunk drivers.

I too hold the responsibility of the individual high, but the bottom line is some people cannot help themselves and should not be indulged when there is a chance to limit their bad habits (over drinking and then creating dangerous situations being one).

ADK99: "why on earth should the company be responsible? "

Not completely responsible, and you are correct that the individual has the lion's share, but they should be held responsible in part if they are aware that company employees at a company sponsored event have driven and the event has alcohol. It should be mandatory that if you attend you either commit to not drinking or you declare you are not driving, and if you cannot you do not get served alcohol, etc. In other countries at parties it's quite common to ask who is a designated driver and be sure that person is not served, for example.

In any case, you're correct that it is not clear if the person was at a company event or not. But clearly he WAS somewhere drinking and then got in a car to head home (or somewhere else). If it can be established that place knew he was driving and was obviously drunk, they should go down as well.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@ Disillusioned "Japan has some of the most severe drink driving penalties in the world, but they mean nothing with a passive police force that only get out of their kobans to enforce it during campaign and holiday periods. The Japanese police are predictable" I AGREE!!!!!

This selective j-statute syndrome not only goes for drunk driving issues, but other laws too, and lets never forget the systemic protocols when it comes to celebrities, and the derision applied to foreigners to emphasize a law all of a sudden to its extent.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What a load of rubbish. There is nothing at all in the story that indicates that the man was at a company event (until 2:40am!) but even if he was, why on earth should the company be responsible? (Unless of course they somehow demanded that he drink and then demanded that he drive home).

@ ADK99: I brought up the company event because the story says he is a "25 yr-old company employee." What does it matter if he works or not I wonder. But since they brought it up, I am assuming that there may be some association with the comapany and his drinking.

I for one have never understood why J-media needs to bring up the employment status of someone in a news story. What difference does it make if he works for a company or is self-employed, out of work, etc. It is still a matter of individual you stated. I am in full agreement with that. What I was saying, that if as you say people here are finding more ways of ducking their own responsiblity, I would certainly use that as a defense if at least to stay my prison time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@alphaape, thanks for responding. I thought about this more. While I know we need to end drunk driving and people that "enable" it I feel less inclined to want to hold all the others responsible. First, at the company/school parties the ones in authority often leave very early leaving the others to do what they want drink more or leave... That usually leads to a "niji-Kai" (second party) which is not the fault of the company. These parties (in my cases) are always voluntary and decided by people themselves. Sometimes I've moved on to the "sanji-kai". The owner or organizers responsibility was over five hours ago.. In Japan there are buses, trains, taxis and daiko as well as many small bars I've been to I've been driven home by a part time worker whose job is to get people home after the last trains and so on. There is no excuse to drive drunk!!! In the USA I feel different. There is hardly any public transportation (in all the 15 or so places I lived in anyway) and so it is likely that someone in the group is the driver. Then I feel bars, individuals and so on should do what they have to do to keep people from driving drunk. Tho still it is hard to keep up with a club full of people coming and going. In the end it has to be the driver who has to be responsible! The law in Japan if you are riding with a drunk driver you are responsible seems harsh but I can agree with it. You drink together you are both responsible.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It's a bit hard to even consider apportioning any blame on those who serve alcohol here - some of them are of high-school age! Get some strict Responsible Service of Alcohol laws passed - and doing police RBT from 6A.M. - like many other countries - would further discourage drink-driving and prevent these tragedies.

RIP poor old man. No excuses for the 25-year-old - he needs a lengthy stretch in the slammer to rehabilitate.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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