Mito, Ibaraki Pref. – A man received a suspended prison term Friday over road rage incidents last year, including an attack on a driver captured by a dashboard camera that shocked the public.
The Mito District Court in Ibaraki Prefecture sentenced Fumio Miyazaki, a 44-year-old company executive, to 2½ years in prison, suspended for four years, in one of the most recent high-profile road rage cases in the country.
According to the ruling, Miyazaki forced a car to pull over on the Joban Expressway in Moriya, northeast of Tokyo, on Aug. 10, 2019, by frequently approaching the car while driving side by side and slowing down abruptly in front of it. He then punched the male driver, in his 20s, in the face.
Miyazaki drove similarly against two other drivers on the Tomei Expressway in Shizuoka and Aichi prefectures on July 23 last year, according to the ruling.
Those acts “can cause a serious accident and are extremely dangerous,” presiding Judge Takeyuki Yuki said in handing down the ruling. “He felt his driving was disturbed and wanted to retaliate. Such a motivation is selfish.”
In the Ibaraki case, Miyazaki’s action was mostly recorded by a dashboard camera in the victim’s car and repeatedly aired on television and shared online. Police put him on a nationwide wanted list after the incident.
Following a number of serious road rage incidents in Japan, the government has revised the road traffic law to newly define “obstructive driving” and impose harsher penalties on drivers who engage in such acts as blocking the path of another vehicle to stop it.
But as Miyazaki was indicted before the legal revision took effect, prosecutors charged him not only with bodily injury but also coercion, in a rare decision for a road rage case.
His defense counsel criticized the move, saying the prosecutors tried to impose the harshest penalty available on Miyazaki, who admitted to the charges. His counsel sought a suspended term.
The prosecutors sought a prison term of three years and eight months, saying he should be penalized strictly from the standpoint of preventing other drivers from engaging in dangerous driving.