A new law to impose tougher penalties on drivers who cause collisions that result in death or injury due to reckless driving took effect Tuesday.
The legislation was introduced in response to criticism that penalties for those convicted of negligent driving are too light.
The maximum sentence such drivers could face is now seven years in prison.
The law also sets the maximum term for those causing death or injury due to “dangerous driving” at 20 years, a term that could be sought against those who drive the wrong way down one-way streets at excessive speeds and cause fatalities or injuries.
The maximum prison term for those who cause fatalities as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or due to the effects of certain diseases such as epilepsy is 15 years. The maximum for those who cause injuries due to such driving is 12 years.
The new law says authorities need to verify that drivers were in a state that could have prevented normal driving.
Additionally, it adds a new clause for drunken drivers involved in accidents resulting in fatalities or injuries who flee the scene. Perpetrators of such a crime face a prison term of up to 12 years.
Calls for harsher punishments grew louder after 10 people were killed or injured in a reckless driving case in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, in 2012, when a car driven by an unlicensed young man ran into a group of elementary school children.
Victims’ families had mixed feelings about the new law. While some said they were satisfied, others remained skeptical about what worth the tougher penalties would be to victims’ families.