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Drinking drivers keep Okinawa dubious #1

Date Posted: 2004-12-16

The results are in for 2004, and Okinawa leads the drunk driver race.

A report published this week by the Okinawa Prefectural Police shows that Okinawa is again number one in Japan for having the most drunk drivers. Officials say the Okinawa rate is three times higher than elsewhere in Japan, and that this year’s numbers are the worst in ten years.

As of December 12th, Okinawa drunk drivers this year totaled 8,787, an increase of 1,269 over last year. Accidents caused by drunk drivers were up 315 in 2004, to 6,148 incidents.

Nationwide, the drunk driver rate is 1.74%, but in Okinawa, the figure is six times that; 11.2% of Okinawa drivers drive drunk. Sixty traffic deaths occurred this year, with one-third of them being attributed to drunk drivers.

Police are now concentrating on meetings with Izakaya (restaurant) owners, in hopes they can find some solutions to the high drinking levels followed by driving.

The most recent major accident attributed to drunk driving was in Chinen Village, where a group of five ran out of alcohol, got into a car and drove to get more. The driver failed to navigate a turn, crashing it upside down after smashing a stone wall alongside the raod. A 20-year-old died. Police say this is not unusual.

“There are habitual drinking drivers, and still we’re going to catch a lot,” says one police official. “We’re running a traffic campaign, and this time we must stop being the worst ones in Japan. We must stop the bad record. We’ll crack down on the worst drivers…strongly.”

Prefectural police say they’ll increase the number of patrolmen on the roads, and at checkpoints.

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