• Kyodo

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A 23-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison for reckless driving resulting in death. It is the first ruling on the offense since the revised Penal Code went into force Dec. 25.

The Tsu District Court found Shingo Kotaka, of Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, guilty of killing one person and injuring two others. The incident occurred Dec. 26, one day after the law took effect.

Kotaka ran a red light at an intersection in the city while driving at 70 to 80 kph in a 40-kph zone, according to the ruling.

His minivehicle struck a station wagon, killing passenger Masami Doi, 26, from Suzuka.

Another passenger was severely injured. The driver, Takahiro Okamura, 26, from Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, was slightly injured.

Judge Tokiharu Amano said: “The driving was reckless and dangerous, paying no heed to the safety of others. There is no room for leniency as the defendant caused the accident by reckless driving conducted out of concern that he might be late for work.”

Kotaka admitted he was in a hurry and deliberately ignored the red light.

Prosecutors had demanded six years in prison.

The charge of reckless driving resulting in death or injury was instituted under the revised Penal Code. The penalties are tougher than those for negligence resulting in death or injury, which had been the usual charge in driving accidents.

The new charge carries imprisonment of at least one year, compared with imprisonment of up to five years or a penalty of up to 500,000 yen under the negligence resulting in death or injury charge.

The new charge targets those who drive under the influence of alcohol, disobey traffic signals at high speed, or drive recklessly to cause death or injury.

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