National / Crime & Legal

Police crackdown nets over 15,000 tailgating violations across Japan in 2019

Kyodo

Police ticketed a total of 15,065 drivers for tailgating last year, up 2,040 or 15.7 percent from the previous year, due to increased efforts to tackle dangerous driving practices, police data showed Thursday.

All cases were violations of a clause in the road traffic law requiring drivers to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead of them.

Dangerous driving involving tailgating or sudden braking, among other hazardous behaviors, has become a social issue in the country after a couple died and their two daughters were injured on the Tomei Expressway in a high-profile road-rage case in 2017.

In the fatal accident, the family’s vehicle was hit from behind by a truck after it was forced to stop in the passing lane by an enraged driver.

Thirty-three cases were treated as dangerous driving resulting in death or injury under a separate law. The figure rose by eight from the previous year. One case resulted in death.

The law spells out punishments for dangerous driving resulting in death or injury, such as cutting directly in front of another moving vehicle or approaching a vehicle too closely to obstruct traffic at a speed that can cause a serious crash.

Of all tailgating cases, 13,787, or more than 90 percent, occurred on expressways, according to the National Police Agency.

The NPA is considering adding a new clause to the road traffic law, which has no specific provision to punish acts of road rage. The agency is planning to submit to the current session of the Diet a bill to revise the road traffic law to impose harsher penalties on reckless drivers, such as immediately revoking their driver’s license after one confirmed offense and introducing a prison term for malicious offenders.

The current road traffic law allows authorities to suspend individual licenses for up to 180 days if they are considered a danger to the public. In 2019, police suspended licenses in 52 cases, up 10 from the previous year.