National

Government to raise fines for charter bus violations by 100 times after fatal crash

Kyodo

The government plans to submit a bill during the upcoming extraordinary Diet session to raise the penalty a hundredfold on chartered bus business operators that fail to take safety measures after a crash that claimed 15 lives earlier this year, according to sources.

The bill would revise the law governing chartered bus businesses so the fine would be set at a maximum ¥100 million for operators that fail to abide by safety rules from the current ¥1 million.

The fine on bus operators for inadequate safety management would become equal to those on violators in the airline and railway businesses.

The penalty for chartered business operators and individuals who breach safety rules would also be raised to ¥1.5 million from the current ¥1 million or up to one year in prison.

The bill is expected to be submitted during the extraordinary session to be convened Sept. 26 so part of it can be put into force by the end of this year.

The overnight ski bus that careened off a road in the resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, in January was found by a transport ministry investigation to have been operated with sloppy safety management.

The investigation found that the tour bus operator failed to create proper driving directions and did not carry out necessary health checks on drivers before the bus departed.

The accident left 13 university students and two drivers dead, and 26 people injured.

Amid growing calls among accident victims’ family members to toughen penalties on illegal chartered bus operators, the transport ministry has been mulling measures to prevent similar accidents.

The bill also seeks to require chartered bus operators to renew their business license every five years in principle, and for those with a spotless driving record, every seven years. Not only newcomers in the chartered bus business but around 4,500 existing operators would be subject to the license renewal system, according to the bill.