The ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Tuesday it will study how to prevent traffic accidents caused by drivers playing the popular smartphone game "Pokemon Go" following several recent deaths. At a meeting of an LDP panel on traffic safety, lawmakers proposed imposing severe penalties on drivers using a smartphone. According to the National Police Agency, three deaths linked to "Pokemon Go" driving have been reported since the game was released in Japan in late July. In one of the accidents, a 9-year-old boy was struck last month by a truck driver who was playing the game behind the wheel in Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture. Under the current traffic law, drivers who pose a danger by operating a phone while driving can be jailed for up to three months or fined a maximum ¥50,000.
These days have seen frequent news reports of elderly drivers losing control of their vehicles, slamming into stores, running over pedestrians and traveling in the wrong direction on expressways. In one case, on the morning of Oct. 28, an 87-year-old man in Yokohama driving a small truck plowed into a group of children walking to school, killing a first-grader and injuring four others. Masaichi Goda, who was arrested on suspicion of negligent driving leading to death and injury, had left home in Yokohama in a truck loaded with garbage the day before, and drove across Kanagawa and Tokyo all day, passing his home many times. He reportedly told investigators he "doesn't remember where and how I drove," leading them to suspect he has dementia. The Yokohama case was followed by two fatal accidents involving drivers in their 80s last month.
"Heartbreaking accidents have continued to occur although measures have been taken," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said ruefully at a meeting of government officials on May 21. Specifically, Abe was referring to two recent traffic incidents that occurred less than three weeks apart. He hopes someone can find a way to prevent similar incidents from occurring. On April 19, an 87-year-old driver shot through a red light at an intersection near Tokyo's Ikebukuro Station and ran down 11 people as dozens of eyewitnesses looked on. The accident proved fatal for a 31-year-old woman on a bicycle and her 3-year-old daughter.
NAGOYA - Toyota Motor Corp. will cut summer bonuses for some 9,800 managers by 4 to 5 percent, as it looks to tighten cost control in the face of high spending on developing technology for autonomous and electrified vehicles, a source close to the matter said Thursday. The decision comes even as the company expects a 19.5 percent rise in net profit in the current fiscal year, and reflects an uncertain business outlook due to the prolonged trade war between the United States and China, the source said. Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Thursday at an annual shareholders' meeting that his company is boosting efforts in developing zero-emission vehicles including fuel cell vehicles. "We are facing a once-in-a-century transformation. I hope to build a mobility society of the future with our shareholders," Toyoda said at the meeting at its headquarters in Aichi Prefecture.
The government decided Friday to introduce tighter rules to crack down on smartphone use while driving, against a backdrop of a rising number of road accidents caused by inattentive drivers. Starting Dec. 1, stricter penalties will be handed out, including higher fines, a roughly threefold increase in driving penalty points and lengthier prison sentences. There were 2,790 accidents in 2018 linked to drivers distracted by smartphones, of which 42 were fatal, an increase by 2.3 times in 10 years. "We need to foster the social conscience that the use of smartphones while driving is a dangerous and impermissible act," said a senior official at the National Police Agency. Under the new rules, made in amendments to the road traffic law, the number of driving penalty points applied to drivers caught speaking or otherwise using their mobile phones will be increased from one point to three points.