OTSU, SHIGA PREF. – A court in Shiga Prefecture on Monday gave a 50-year-old former truck driver a harsher sentence than expected for causing a fatal expressway pileup while using his smartphone last year.
The Otsu District Court sentenced Hiroyuki Maeda of Niigata Prefecture to two years and eight months in prison for the Nov. 21 crash, which killed Yuji Mizutani, 44, and injured four other people. Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of only two years.
Maeda said during a court hearing that he was using a map application on his smartphone to check the travel time to his destination.
Judge Teruyuki Imai said the prosecutors underestimated the level of criminality in crashes caused by drivers using smartphones, and that the defendant deserved a “considerable amount of blame” because there was “no urgency” to use the smartphone.
Under a court system allowing victims and their families to participate in criminal trials, Mizutani’s 46-year-old wife told a court earlier this month claimed Maeda’s actions were “the same as murder” as he was using a smartphone “knowing he could cause an accident.”
According to the ruling, Maeda’s truck slammed into a car that was braking due to traffic on the Meishin Expressway in Taga, Shiga Prefecture, causing a five-car pileup.