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Number of drunk drivers in Okinawa hit record high

Date Posted: 2003-07-05

Despite new draconian penalties, continuous police campaigns, and increased traffic stops, nothing seems to stop Okinawan drivers from getting behind the wheel after a glass or two.

According to police statistics on drunk drivers from January through end of May this year, the number of people held for driving while intoxicated increased a whopping 63 percent from the same period last year. Although police admit that a part of the statistics can be attributed to the fact that the definition of drunk driving changed from 0.25 mg alcohol in one liter of breath to 0.15 mg, the numbers are still bad enough to keep Okinawa as the worst offender in the nation. It's a dubious honor that the prefecture has had for the past 15 years in row.

Exasperated police officials vow to stamp out the habit, no matter what it takes. "Okinawan people seem to think that having one glass of beer or wine is nothing, and it is OK to drive. But the law says that drunk is drunk whether it is one or ten glasses, it does not matter. Even if our meter shows only a tiny trace of alcohol in a driver's breath, he or she will be arrested," a spokesman at the Okinawa Prefectural Police Headquarters said.

He said that the police intend to change Okinawa's status as the worst offender in drunk driving and are planning even stricter enforcement. "I would like to say to anyone who drives drunk: We are warning you! If you drive drunk, you'll lose everything you've got. You'll lose your job, your dreams and your happiness. We will take everything away from you. Remember this and think," the spokesman stated.

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