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Okinawa has most drunk drivers for fifteen years straight

Date Posted: 2002-12-14

For 14 years in row Okinawa has held the top position in the number of apprehended drunk drivers, and this year is sure to become the 15th. According to police statistics this year, from January through Nov. 30, 221 drivers were apprehended for driving drunk. That represents 10 percent of all drunk drivers in whole Japan. Okinawa’s population is only one percent of total. 7063 drivers were slapped fines for driving under influence, meaning they were not legally drunk but smelled alcohol.

The Okinawa Prefectural is at loss what to do. “Even when the law changed earlier this year imposing much stiffer penalties, nothing really changed. You’d think people think twice when a penalty for even smallest whiff of alcohol in a driver’s breath can cost between ¥300,000 and ¥500,000, and even the person who sits besides the driver can expect to pay another ¥300,000 as he or she did not prevent the drunk getting behind the wheel. But not here, all goes on as before,” one exasperated police officer said.

58 people have lost their lives in traffic accidents this year in Okinawa, of which 17 involved a drunk driver. According to Prefectural Police survey, most of drunk drivers knew that the law had changed June 1. Only 20 percent claimed they did not know.

The problem was recently taken up at a regular business meeting of the Prefectural Assembly where members did some soul searching trying to figure out causes for the terrible record. “Drunk drivers don’t feel that they are committing a crime. People joke about it, and take it as an adventure,” one assembly member stated.

With Year End Party season well in the way, the assembly urged the police to concentrate all its efforts against drunken driving in a campaign that will continue daily through the end of the year.

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