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Alcohol-fueled accidents keep Okinawa on top

Date Posted: 2011-02-04

It's a dubious distinction, but one that Okinawa's held now for 21 consecutive years: alcohol-spurred accidents resulting in death or injuries remain triple the national average.

A new report from Okinawa Prefecture Police chronicles data gathered in 2009, showing Okinawa drivers are far more likely to drink and drive than elsewhere in the country. The "Drunken Driving Extermination Campaigns" staged 16 months ago confirmed that drunk driving is spreading in Japan's southernmost prefecture. Fatalities in accidents involving alcohol were registered in 8 of 47 cases last year, a whopping 17% rate. Police say this is the second worst in Japan, but a slight improvement after holding the most terrible spot for 15 consecutive years.

The Okinawa Prefectural Police Traffic Planning Section says Okinawa recorded 154 cases of traffic accidents involving alcohol last year, 2.37% of all traffic accidents on the island. The national average is only 0.8%. The number of Okinawa drivers arrested for drunk driving remains the worst in Japan. In 2010, 2,269 drivers were busted, 1.63 people per 1,000 population. By comparison, only 0.31% of mainland drivers are arrested after drinking.

Masaaki Miyagi, based at the Okinawa Prefecture Police Traffic Planning Section, says "It is necessary that Okinawan people become conscious of the fact that drunk driving is a crime." Miyagi says he believes people should throw Okinawa Prefecture's energy into stronger education campaigns that lead to reduced drunk driving. He advocates strengthening crackdown, including increased use of checkpoints in the future.

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