Police in Japan are calling for tougher laws against road rage, after reckless driving cases nearly doubled in just one year.
Frustrated at a rising number of road rage incidents and the lack of an effective deterrent, Japan’s National Police Agency used a recent meeting with government to ask it to pass new legislation with stiffer sentences.
At present, unless a driver causes a deliberate collision or is involved in a physical confrontation, the law only allows a driver to be charged with failing to keep an appropriate distance between vehicles.
The agency’s move has been prompted by a series of road rage incidents and an explosion in reckless driving cases. In 2018, police investigated 10,873 cases of reckless driving, up from 5,759 incidents the previous year.
In the most recent road rage case, a businessman was arrested after he forced another car to stop on a motorway in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo, on August 10 and repeatedly punched the driver of the vehicle.
“I punched the man as hard as I could,” company executive Fumio Miyazaki, 43, admitted to police.
“I went too far, I regret what I did,” the Mainichi newspaper quoted Miyazaki as saying.
Miyazaki’s girlfriend, Natsuko Kimoto, was also arrested on charges of harbouring a fugitive after police used footage from a camera in the victim’s car to identify the couple. Kimoto filmed Miyazaki assaulting the other driver on her mobile phone.
The government appears to agree that there is a pressing need for revisions to the Road Traffic Law, with Katsuei Hirasawa, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s committee on traffic safety, saying: “We have reached the limit on what we can do to crack down on road rage offenders under current laws.”
The National Police Agency in January 2018 asked forces nationwide to get tough on road rage incidents. That call was in response to a case seven months previously in which Kazuho Ishibashi, a 26-year-old construction worker, forced a van containing a family of four to a halt on the Tomei Expressway in Yokohama.
Yoshihisa Hagiyama and his wife, Yuka, were killed when a truck collided with their stationary vehicle. Their two daughters, aged 17 and 13 at the time, were injured.
Ishibashi was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
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