At the end of June, a revised traffic law went into effect with new and especially harsh penalties imposed for 10 separate offenses related to tailgating. As reported by Nikkan Gendai (July 3), a driver found in violation can be subjected to a fine of up to 1 million yen and/or imprisonment of up to five years.
Interestingly, penalties for tailgating also apply to bicycle riders.
"What?" you might ask, "How does a bicycle tailgate an automobile?"
Actually as recently as June 15, Tokyo police in Ogikubo arrested a man in his 40s on suspicion of tailgating a car with his bicycle and causing damage by colliding into it. The specifics were recorded on the car's drive recorder, and other evidence obtained from cameras on the street show the cyclist apparently leaned his handlebars toward the car and struck it intentionally.
"As of June 30, bicycle riders will also be cited for tailgating violations," a policeman is quoted as saying. "Even if the bicycle comes to a full stop, if the rider prevents another vehicle from proceeding through an intersection it becomes a traffic offense." For which the penalty, by the way, can be up to three months incarceration or a fine of up to 50,000 yen.
Nikkan Gendai provides a list of no fewer than 15 new regulations for cyclists that will be enforced, with penalties ranging from a fine of 20,000 yen to imprisonment of up to three years. They range from ignoring a traffic signal to riding in places where bicycles are banned; not slowing to avoid pedestrians; riding in car-only lanes and other places.
Usage of cell phone while in motion provides for a fine of up to 20,000 yen. Going against the direction of vehicle flow in a traffic circus may wind you behind bars for up to three months and/or a fine of up to 50,000 yen. And should you fail a breathalyzer test while on your two-wheeler, you may face imprisonment of up to five years and/or fined up to 1 million yen.
As with motor vehicle offenses, cycle violators can avoid the harshest penalties by sitting through a three-hour series of safety lectures and passing a written test. The charge for attendance is 6,000 yen. Since this system went into effect in 2015, some 22,969 people in Osaka have been cited, among whom only 161 opted to take the safety lectures. (Six of them were high school students.)
Broken down by type of violation, Osaka offenders included failing to come to a complete stop for a red light, 14,543 cases; illegally entering a rail crossing, 2,516 cases; not coming to a full stop when so required, 839 cases; bicycle not properly equipped (with headlamp, reflector, etc.), 406 cases; and riding where prohibited, 344 cases.
Attorney Hiroshi Yamaguchi tells Nikkan Gendai the authorities typically either issue a "warning card" or a traffic violation ticket. "The former is recorded at the police station, but no further action is taken," he says. "For the latter, in worst cases it goes into a person's record as a criminal offense, and people are legally required to include this on their resume form or personal history that's submitted when applying for a job.
"So when you lightly chose to disregard a traffic signal, remember, it can affect your whole life."
Yamaguchi also recalls a case where a 5th grade primary schooler on a downhill grade crashed her bicycle into a 62-year-old woman, leaving her in a vegetative state. In 2013 the local district court ordered her family to pay 95 million yen in compensation.
He strongly advises cyclists, particularly those who ride to work or school, to take out a liability insurance policy.© Japan Today