The number of people charged with drunken driving fell by more than 15,000 in the year since a tougher traffic law went into force on June 1, 2002, the National Police Agency said in a report released Thursday.

The report says police took action against 202,985 offenders in the one-year period, down 15,392 from the corresponding period in the previous year.

The number of fatal traffic accidents involving drunken driving fell by 357 to 830 during the same period.

The NPA said a majority of the offenders were driving under the influence of alcohol.

While 108,000 offenders had an alcohol concentration of more than 0.25 mg per liter of breath, 99,609 measured between 0.15 mg and 0.25 mg, a new category of drunken driving introduced under the revised Road Traffic Law.

The NPA said 2,368 drivers were fully intoxicated.

It said 54,005 driver’s licenses were revoked in the 12-month period, up 65 percent from the previous year, and the number of offenders who had their driver’s license suspended for more than 90 days rose by 36 percent to 166,214.

The NPA attributed the surge to tougher provisions in the new traffic law, which raised the penalty points for drunken driving.

13 years for deaths

OSAKA (Kyodo) A 26-year-old man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for killing four people in a traffic accident that occurred while he was driving without a license and under the influence of alcohol.

The Osaka District Court found Seiichi Imai guilty of violating the Road Traffic Law and reckless driving resulting in death and injury. A fifth person was hurt in the incident, which occurred at an intersection in the city of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, in January last year.

According to the Justice Ministry, it is the heaviest punishment yet dealt for a fatal reckless driving charge since revisions to the traffic law that made motorists more accountable for such driving came into force in December 2001.

Presiding Judge Yoshifumi Asayama called Imai “a lethal weapon on wheels” and said the emotional pain suffered by those who lost their loved ones was great.

A couple and their two daughters were killed in the head-on collision, while a woman in Imai’s station wagon was injured.

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