The National Police Agency is considering revising traffic laws with the aim of revoking driver's licenses for dangerous driving, amid public concern fueled by several high-profile road-rage cases the past few years, a source familiar with the matter said.
A draft bill for harsher penalties on reckless drivers will be submitted to the ordinary Diet session early next year, the source said.
Currently, drivers are penalized for dangerous moves such as following closely behind another vehicle, repeatedly swerving between lanes or braking suddenly, but can keep their licenses unless they engage in constant violations of traffic laws.
Driver's licenses are not revoked for road rage unless it leads to death or injuries, while those who drive recklessly enough "to clearly have great possibility to cause danger" have their licenses suspended for 180 days at most under the current laws.
The agency is studying ways to revoke driver's licenses for recklessness behind the wheel, for example by revising penalty standards on drivers who warrant concern, or by introducing new penalties for dangerous driving.
Public concern over such driving mounted after a high-profile road-rage case in 2017, in which motorist Kazuho Ishibashi forced a car to stop in the passing lane on the Tomei Expressway where it was hit by a truck.
Of the victims in the car, Yoshihisa Hagiyama, 45, and his wife Yuka, 39, died and their daughters were injured. The Yokohama District Court late last year sentenced the 27-year-old Ishibashi, accused of causing the accident, to 18 years in prison.
Following the accident, the agency sent out directives to prefectural police departments in January last year to crack down on road safety violations and apply existing provisions more vigorously against dangerous drivers.
The number of traffic violations related to failure to maintain a safe driving distance doubled to about 13,000 last year.
Violent road-rage incidents also continued, including the death of a university student on a motorbike who was hit by an enraged driver near Osaka in July last year.
In August this year, motorist Fumio Miyazaki was arrested for alleged reckless driving and punching another driver on the Joban Expressway in Ibaraki Prefecture.
In September, a driver fired an air gun in a fit of rage on the Tomei Expressway in Aichi Prefecture. The man was arrested on suspicion of property damage.© KYODO