Legal authority to tow abandoned cars eyed

JIJI

The government is considering legal steps to allow officials to remove abandoned cars from roads to make way for emergency vehicles, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Trucks and cars stranded by the heavy snowfalls over the weekend are blocking the way for snowplows, and local authorities have asked the government for help, Suga told a Monday press conference.

In many cases, the vehicles were abandoned and removing them without the owner’s consent would involve issues related to their constitutional rights to property.

“There is no legal basis for the state to compensate the vehicle owners for any damage caused by forcible removal,” Suga said. It is also unclear from a legal standpoint how to regard the wishes of the owners of abandoned vehicles, he pointed out.

A similar situation could arise if a large-scale earthquake hits right under Tokyo, Suga said, underscoring the need to consider legal measures as soon as possible.

The issue was also taken up at a joint meeting of the government and the Liberal Democratic Party on Monday. LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said after the meeting that it was a complicated issue involving property rights and nothing has been decided yet.