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Nagata et al. reported effectiveness of Japanese law against alcohol-impaired driving, which would serve as a useful reference to other
countries. However, for this paper to be really helpful to policy
makers, the description of legislation should be accurate; and changes
other than the road traffic law, which might have influenced the results,
should also be described.
The authors sta...
The authors stated the fine against alcohol-impaired driving (AID)
increased from 50 000 yen to 500 000 Yen. This is misleading because
there are two types of AID in Japan, to which different penalties are
applied. Deshapriya et al. described the differences in details: in their
words, driving under the influence (DUI) is determined by breath testing
and driving while (heavily) impaired (DWI) is determined by the police
officers' judgment on drivers' behaviors. Heavier penalties are
applied to DWI which is considered to be more dangerous. Before the law
amendment, penalties against DUI and DWI were up to three months
imprisonment or up to 50 000 Yen fine, and up to two years imprisonment or
up to 100 000 Yen fine, respectively (one was imposed a fine thorough a
summary procedure unless the one chose a formal lawsuit instead or was a
repeated offender). These penalties were increased in June 2002 to one
year or 300 000 Yen and three years or 500 000 Yen, respectively.
Heavier penalties against DWI have been seldom applied: in 2001 DWI
penalties were applied only to 1 % of drivers charged with AID, which
increased to 1.3 % in 2003. Therefore, in most of the cases after the
new law was implemented, fines imposed to charged drivers were up to 300
The authors stated the new law made bartenders and passengers
culpable. Actually those who provided charged drivers with alcohol or
a vehicle, and passengers had been punished as accomplices with the aid of
a criminal law articles 61 and 62 that prescribe punishment against those
who support a crime until September 2007 when the road traffic law was
amended again. The latest law prescribes punishment against those who
provided charged drivers with alcohol or a vehicle and passengers;
penalties against DUI and DWI were increased to three years imprisonment
or up to 500 000 Yen fine and five years imprisonment or up to 1 000 000
Yen fine, respectively.
The authors discussed that no major change other than the new road
traffic law occurred between 1998 and 2003. Although there was no other
major change in the road traffic law during this period, there was a big
change in the criminal law in December 2001. Before that, penalty against
those who hit a person while AID resulting in death was up to five years
imprisonment. The new criminal law prescribes up to 20 years imprisonment
to those who kill a person while dangerous driving including AID. This
implies that crashes due to AID which used to be just a mistake has become
a homicide crime. This change cannot be ignored because the reduction of
deaths due to AID might be at least partly because of the new criminal
law. The number of drivers charged with AID started to decline before the
increases of the fines (figure).
Another point that should be considered is a possibility of
misclassification of AID as non-AID. The new road traffic law did not
increase penalties against refusal of breath testing, which was 50 000 Yen
fine until November 2004 when it was increased to fine same as that of
DUI. Increased refusal by 52.5% was reported in June 2002 to May 2003
compared to the previous one year. Furthermore, penalties against hit
and run, though increased from up to three years imprisonment or up to 200
000 Yen fine to five years or 500 000 Yen in 2002, have been less severe
compared to the criminal law prescribing up to 20 years imprisonment
against dangerous driving resulting in death. Occurrence of hit and run
started to increase concurrently with the decline of charged drivers for
AID (figure). Drunk drivers involved in a crash might have chosen to be
charged with refusal rather than DUI, or escaped to be charged with hit
and run especially when there was a possibility of 20 years imprisonment.
Therefore, we suggest that the authors analyze the trend of non-AID
fatalities whether there is an upward change.
1. Nagata T, Setoguchi S, Hemenway D, Perry MJ. Effectiveness of a
law to reduce alcohol-impaired driving in Japan. Inj Prev. 2008;14(1):19-23.
2. Deshapriya EB, Iwase N. Impact of the 1970 legal BAC 0.05 mg% limit
legislation on drunk-driver-involved traffic fatalities, accidents, and
DWI in Japan. Subst Use Misuse. 1998;33(14):2757-88.
3. National Police Agency. Police White Paper 2005. (in Japanese.) Tokyo:
Natioal Police Agency, 2005. 20-21.
4. National Police Agency. Kaisei dorokotsuhono gaiyo. [Amendment of the
road traffic law.] (in Japanese.) National Police Agency, 2007.
on 19 Feb 2008)
5. National Police Agency. Inshu untentaisakuno jokyonitsuite.
[Countermeasures against alcohol-impaired driving.] (in Japanese.)
National Police Agency, 2003.
(accessed on 19 Feb 2008)