Japan gov’t tightens rules to clamp down on smartphone use while driving

Using smartphone while driving. Photo by digitaltrends.com. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Sep 13, 2019, Kyodo. The government decided Friday to introduce tighter rules to crack down on smartphone use while driving, against a backdrop of rising road accidents caused by inattentive drivers, reported The Mainichi.

Starting Dec. 1, stricter penalties will be meted out, including higher fines, an around threefold increase in driving penalty points and lengthier prison sentences.

There were 2,790 accidents in 2018 linked to drivers distracted by smartphones, of which 42 were fatal, an increase by 2.3 times in 10 years.

“We need to foster a social conscience that the use of smartphones while driving is a dangerous and impermissible act,” said a senior official of the National Police Agency.

Under the new rules made in amendments to the road traffic law, the number of driving penalty points applied to drivers caught speaking or otherwise using their mobile phones will be increased from one point to three points, while in instances where others were endangered six points rather than two will be imposed.

Fines will be increased from 7,000 yen ($65) to 25,000 yen for cases involving large cars, from 6,000 yen to 18,000 yen for standard-sized cars, from 6,000 yen to 15,000 yen for motorbikes and 5,000 yen to 12,000 yen for mopeds.

Repeat offenders face prison sentences of up to six months or fines of up to 100,000 yen.

Unlike in the past, those whose smartphone use endangered others will immediately be held criminally liable. If charged, they will face a harsher penalty of either a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine of up to 300,000 yen.

Meanwhile, the government is also tackling road rage after a recent spate of fatal accidents. The National Police Agency says it is studying draft proposals including heavier penalties.

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