TOKYO: Japan's National Police Agency plans to add a new provision to the road traffic law to criminalize and punish acts of road rage, it was learned Friday.
The NPA is considering defining road rage as acts aimed at obstructing the traffic of vehicles, such as tailgating. The agency will submit a bill to amend the law to next year's ordinary session of the Diet, Japan's parliament, after drafting specific penalties, informed sources said.
With the road traffic law currently having no clauses for punishing road rage itself, police are cracking down on the reckless driving by taking action against violators mainly through the use of a provision in the law that obliges drivers to take an adequate distance between their vehicles and automobiles traveling ahead of them and a penal code clause on the crime of assault.
In the first 10 months of this year, the Japanese police have taken action against 12,377 cases of violations of the safe distance requirement, 26 cases of assault, six cases of injury and one case of compulsion.
According to the agency, road rage acts to be criminalized under the revised road traffic law would include tailgating, suddenly applying the brakes and changing courses to pull in front of other vehicles, all regarded as acts of violations under the current law.
Penalties will be imposed under the new law provision if the driver is found to have intended to obstruct the traffic of other vehicles, based on eyewitness testimonies and dashboard camera footage.
Heavier punishments will apply when road rage drivers cause situations at high risks of traffic accidents, such as forcing other vehicles to stop on expressways.
For the new road rage clause, the NPA is considering statutory penalties heavier than those for assault cases, which are up to two years in prison or up to 300,000 yen in fines.
While drivers who violate the safe distance obligation on expressways and general roads receive only 2 points and one point, respectively, as administrative penalties under the current traffic violation point system, the new regulation will seek to impose 15 or more points for road rage, enough to revoke a driver's license.
In an NPA survey conducted in October, 939 people, or 35.0 percent of the 2,681 respondents, aged 18-90, said they have suffered road rage in the past year, with 768, or 81.8 percent, citing acts of tailgating. Of the total victims, 401 said they have suffered road rage three times or more.
With multiple answers allowed, 192 respondents, 20.4 percent, also suffered unnecessary honking of car horns or headlights on high beam, 156, or 16.6 percent, cited a vehicle traveling alongside closing in on their vehicles, and 33, or 3.5 percent, said a vehicle stopped in front of their cars to block passage.
Over 90 percent of the overall respondents, including those who have never been victimized by road rage, agreed on the necessity of measures to deter such reckless driving.
The number of people who cited the need for tougher penalties came to 2,001, or 74.6 percent of all respondents, followed by 1,634 people, or 60.9 percent, who called for promoting the use of dashboard cameras.
The survey was conducted for people who visited driver's license centers nationwide to have their licenses renewed.