The National Police Agency unveiled a bill Thursday that would crack down on repeat reckless bicyclists, unlicensed motorists and people who fail to disclose diseases such as epilepsy that could impair their driving.
The bill to revise the 1960 Road Traffic Law would oblige reckless bicyclists aged 14 or older who are caught breaking traffic rules two or more times to undergo a safety program that includes reciting notes written by the families of traffic fatalities, NPA officials said.
The bill aims to curb accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians after such cases spiked from 1,817 in 2001 to 2,806 in 2011. It does not cover people too young to be subject to charges under the Penal Code, the officials said.
The agency may seek to fine those who refuse to attend the safety lessons. It will solicit public comments on the bill starting Friday and try to gain Diet passage during the current 150-day session that runs through June 26.
Road traffic law violations by bicyclists numbered 5,321 nationwide in 2012, a ninefold increase from 2006. The total includes 1,650 cases in which traffic lights were ignored, 1,424 involving faulty or nonexistent brakes, and 849 in which cyclists illegally entered railway grade crossings when the lights were flashing and gates were down.
Of 3,956 recorded cases of bicyclists who allegedly violated the traffic law in 2011, only 17 offenders faced criminal charges.
The law designates bicycles as light vehicles that are subject to the same traffic rules as motor vehicles. But experts question whether penalizing bicyclists is appropriate as they are not required to obtain a license.
The NPA bill would also up the penalty imposed on unlicensed drivers, raising the maximum prison term to three years from the current one and the fine to ¥500,000 from ¥300,000. People who knowingly provide vehicles to unlicensed drivers would be subject to the same increased punishment, and those who solicit and obtain a ride from such drivers could face a two-year term and ¥300,000 fine.
Motorists who have diseases such as epilepsy that may impair their driving, and who fail to report this information at the time they acquire or renew their license, will also face penalties, and doctors will be required to notify the police if they have patients with such maladies.