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Okinawa drivers getting worse despite campaign

Date Posted: 2005-01-13

More than 80,000 Okinawa drivers broke traffic rules in 2004, an increase of more than 15,000 infractions.

Those totals make Okinawa the worst in Japan. The prefecture’s had that dubious distinction for 17 years, and last year Prefectural Police set out to erase it.

They failed. Police had set the goal that honor should be recovered on Okiinawa, and violations reduced. Instead, infractions increased 18.3%.

The worst infraction categories were running through red lights and illegally traveling in bus lanes.
Deadly drunk drivers accounted for 197 cases, while another 9,163 cases involved driving under the influence of alcohol. Those were highest in the nation as well.

Sixty-one deaths occurred on Okinawa’s streets and highways during the year. Another six deaths were unexplained, with bodies found dead on streets and roads.

Speeding drivers accounted for 9,616 violations, while red light runners were chared in 9,288 cases. Unlicensed drivers were caught in 2,497 incidents.

Far and away the largest infractions were in bus lanes, with 12,777 tickets written. Drivers are unhappy with the bus lane regulations. “Why should we only keep the bus lanes? Because of others breaking the rules, they’ve never been arrested. Why don’t you arrest them?”

Police say “sure, we do arrest them when we see them.” The sheer numbers of violators, coupled with busy traffic conditions, make it difficult.

One irritated driver caught in a bus lane says “Hey policemen! Look at the bus lanes. They’re empty but other lanes have too many cares and are never moving. It’s not fair to us. You’d better think about our situation or change the rules.” The argument by many is that drivers should be allowed in the bus lanes during high traffic periods, and when the lanes are empty.

Police counter that people “…must be out of their minds. It’s not possible.” They promise “to arrest you…surely. Yes.”

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