The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department held an emergency meeting with cab and trucking companies Friday to address accidents caused by drivers under the influence of “dappo” (loophole) drugs.
According to the MPD, five organizations, including the Tokyo Trucking Association and the Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association, attended the conference to discuss ways of preventing crimes related to the quasi-legal drugs, which the government officially terms as “dangerous drugs.”
During Friday’s meeting, the MPD briefed the industry groups on the dangers posed by dappo drugs and asked attendees to make their drivers aware of them.
Koichi Hirota of the MPD’s traffic bureau stressed that 21 car crashes in Tokyo alone have been blamed on people driving under the influence of dappo drugs since the beginning of the year.
“I would like to remind you of the dangers associated with dappo drugs and ask you to implement all measures possible to prevent similar incidents being caused by professional drivers,” Hirota said.
The MPD decided to boost prevention measures after the arrest in August of 54-year-old Tokyo taxi driver Shoji Tanzawa, who was found under the influence of the drugs while on duty.
According to the MPD, Tanzawa, from Toshima Ward, was arrested at around 4:10 a.m. on Aug. 7 in Ota Ward on suspicion of violating the Road Traffic Act after allegedly buying the drugs during work, smoking them and picking up several fares.
Tanzawa, who police say has admitted to the charges, allegedly bought the drugs at around 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 6 at a store near his home in Ikebukuro.
He is said to have smoked them at several locations on Aug. 7, including near a convenience store in Kawasaki, before picking up 10 passengers.
When police stopped his car, they say they discovered a bag containing drugs and a pipe in his trouser pocket. He told police he started using the drugs about six months earlier to help him relieve feelings of depression.
Tanzawa left the taxi company in mid-August.
The MPD also announced on Friday that it has requested the nation’s 14 Internet service providers to crack down on websites selling dappo drugs. Of the 50 sites targeted, 35 were shut down. Four others removed the products in question but continued to operate their sites, while 11 operators continue to sell the drugs online.
Families of those who have lost their lives to accidents involving drivers high on dappo drugs have urged the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to stiffen the penalties.
At a meeting Thursday, health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki assured victims that he will “fight to eradicate” the drugs so the families “can relieve their pain.”
Among those who met the minister on Thursday were the parents of an 11-year-old girl named Miku, from Zentsuji, Kagawa Prefecture, who was run over by a driver under the influence of the drugs in January.
“I feel so depressed when I hear the news about any new accident involving the drugs,” the mother of the girl, who was a fifth-grader in elementary school, said at a press conference.
The father of a 25-year-old firefighter in Nakano, Nagano Prefecture, who was killed trying to rescue victims of an accident caused by a driver high on the drugs in May, also said they should be banned.
“The sad reality is anyone can easily buy the drugs on the Internet now,” he said.
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