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Drunk driver penalties extend to passengers

Date Posted: 2007-03-08

Life is getting tougher on drunk drivers, and also on bar, restaurant and izakaya owners who serve the alcohol to them.

A new bill passed by the Cabinet mandates strict punishment for not only drivers, but for passengers and those responsible for serving the alcohol. The measures come into play following serious accidents which killed children. Drunk drivers were involved in each case.

The new law, the first amendment to the Road Traffic Law since 2001, will take effect this Fall following a government education campaign. The bill goes to the Diet now for official passage, which is expected. The measure also contains features requiring stronger testing for older drivers, and establishes requirements that rear seat passengers wear seat belts.

The new law calls for drunk drivers to receive fines of up to 1 million, up from the current 500,000, and imprisonment of up to five years. For drunk drivers involved in accidents, the penalty rises from seven years in jail to 15 years in prison. Hit and run drivers will also see increased punishment. Fines will go from 500,000 to 1 million, and jail sentences will double to ten years.

The same harsh penalties will be levied on people who provide vehicles to drunk drivers, people who ride with drunk drivers, and those who give drivers alcohol. Fines of 500,000 and up to three years in jail will be given under the new law.

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