• Kyodo

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The Metropolitan Police Department on Monday asked go-kart companies to improve safety as the popularity of their driving tours grows.

The MPD asked five go-kart rental companies in Tokyo to encourage patrons to wear helmets and protective gear while driving amid an uptick in fender-benders.

The activity is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, who are often seen driving the tiny, low-slung vehicles around the streets of Tokyo while dressed in outfits reminiscent of Super Mario and other Nintendo Co. game characters. A guided go-kart tour typically costs between ¥6,000 and ¥8,000 for two hours.

The police said it also urged the five companies to ban smartphone use while driving, which is illegal when driving normal vehicles, and to more thoroughly explain Japanese traffic rules to tourists.

There have been 12 go-kart accidents since police began tracking them at the end of March, and foreign tourists were involved in 10 of them. NHK said that no injuries had been reported so far.

In an accident in March, for example, a woman from South Korea ran into a police box in Minato Ward after failing to turn at an intersection.

In accordance with the road traffic law, go-karts are designated as minicars, but under the law governing vehicle specifications, they are classified as mopeds. The vehicles have engines ranging from 20cc to 50cc and are equipped with turn signals, headlights and sometimes stereo systems and flags. The use of seat belts, however, is not compulsory.

The police also asked the companies to reserve parking along their touring routes, and to take other steps to deal with such issues as excessive noise.

The police are considering measures to improve the visibility of the low-slung vehicles in collaboration with the transport ministry.

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