A House of Representatives panel approved a bill Wednesday to entrust the private sector with handling illegal parking and impose stricter penalties on drivers using mobile phones.

The amendment to the Road Traffic Law, approved by the Lower House Cabinet Committee, is expected to be enacted during a plenary session Thursday. Because the revision marks a major reform, there will be a preparatory period to introduce the changes in stages spanning six months to three years.

The bill requires car owners or those listed on the registration to pay for parking violations if the driver fails to report to authorities. A private corporation will handle the processing of parking violations.

It also will impose a tougher penalty on drivers who use mobile phones behind the wheel. They will face fines of up to 50,000 yen. Under the current law, only drivers who “cause danger to traffic” by using mobile phones are fined.

Motorcycle and car gangs, known as “bosozoku,” will be fined for riding in a group, even if they do not cause trouble or harm anyone.

The police decided to take measures against the gangs as their activities have been increasing. Authorities received 130,000 complaints about them in 2002, marking the 14th straight year the number exceeded 100,000.

Fines for drivers who refuse to take Breathalyzer tests will be raised to a maximum of 300,000 yen from the current ceiling of 50,000 yen.

Another new measure will lift the ban against tandem riding on motorcycles on expressways on the condition that the driver is aged over 20 and has had a license for more than three years.

The bill changes the driver’s license classification system by creating a new license for vehicles weighing five to 10 tons.