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Recent traffic incidents show that some people are not aware of the serious nature of drunk driving. While the use of marijuana among university students has been in the public limelight recently, drunk driving — an infinitely more common problem with far deadlier results — should be the subject of equally serious discussion.

On the night of Nov. 17, a superintendent of the Metropolitan Police Department was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Inashiki, Ibaraki Prefecture. He was so drunk that he was unsteady on his feet. As a man who spent most of his career in traffic safety, including a stint at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government as head of a section to promote traffic safety until the end of March this year, he should have known not to drive a car while under the influence of alcohol.

Recently, Osaka Prefecture has seen more serious drunk-driving cases. On Nov. 5, a 22-year-old man was arrested in connection with the death of a 30-year-old male company employee. It is suspected that his car hit the man in Umeda, Osaka, early Oct. 21 and dragged him about three kilometers. The driver had no driver’s license. On Nov. 16, a 41-year-old man was arrested in a similar case. It is suspected that his car hit a 16-year-old newspaper delivery boy early in the morning in Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture, and dragged him about seven kilometers. In the past, both drivers had already been the target of police action in connection with drunk driving. In Osaka Prefecture, there were 830 hit-and-run incidents in 2007 — more than twice that of Tokyo — followed by 463 in Saitama Prefecture and 430 in Kanagawa Prefecture. Drunk driving is the No. 1 cause of these incidents throughout the nation.

If a person is hit by a car and the driver responds immediately, the victim’s life often can be saved. Education of drivers on how to cope when his or her car hits a person should be strengthened. Heavier conditions should also be set on re-issuing driver’s licenses to people who have been caught driving while drunk.

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