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  • Motor Vehicles and Booze

    Got in a discussion today at work with a co-worker ('nother foreigner) about the laws in Japan regarding driving and the good stuff.

    What's the law?

    My understanding is that drinking in a car (or other motorized moving thing) is LEGAL so long as the driver is not partaking. I also heard somewhere that back-seat/front-seat is not an issue. If the car is stopped for some reason, the only person who NEEDS to be 100% (or really really close) sober is the driver.

    However, we got a bit confused when the issue of IF the driver is hammered (or above the legal limit), what happens with the passengers? I had heard that a new law was passed that held everyone in the car responsible for NOT throwing the keys in the ditch and forcing the driver to get a taxi (along with the rest of the folk). That seems sensible to me. But what if the only other passenger ...

    (1) is drinking and doesn't have a license to drive, thus they are not only incapable of driving because they are drunk (or tipsy, whatever), but don't hold the proper credentials to drive legally.

    (2) is sober and doesn't have a license to drive, thus simply not holding thh eproper credentials.

    or

    (3) has no idea the driver had been drinking.

    (... or any other situation you guys and gals can think of)

    Obviously the safe thing to do is just take the trains when one goes out on the town, but what about the "what ifs"?

    Thanks folks.
    - Stephen

  • #2
    if you wanna drink and drive you better take out a loan....
    0.15 mg ethanol per liter ... yeah thats it...one beer and you are fried
    driver......... max 3 year imprisonment / 500,000 yen fine, loss of 25 pts and your license suspended for 2 years,
    passengers riding with the offending driver............ 200,000 yen fine each (dunno if there is any imprisonment involvedj

    this is for plain old DUI but if there is a combination of offences... ie speeding plus DUI than the points add up
    if you have an accident DUI you are automatically liable even if the accident was caused by a sober driver and also your insurance will not pay out and you are left holding a huge bill
    easiest thing, if you drink anything, take a taxi, bus , train .....whatever ......never drive
    Last edited by eku; 2005-03-31, 06:52 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by eku
      if you wanna drink and drive you better take out a loan....
      0.15 mg ethanol per liter ... yeah thats it...one beer and you are fried
      driver......... max 3 year imprisonment / 500,000 yen fine, loss of 25 pts and your license suspended for 2 years,
      passengers riding with the offending driver............ 200,000 yen fine each (dunno if there is any imprisonment involvedj

      this is for plain old DUI but if there is a combination of offences... ie speeding plus DUI than the points add up
      if you have an accident DUI you are automatically liable even if the accident was caused by a sober driver and also your insurance will not pay out and you are left holding a huge bill
      easiest thing, if you drink anything, take a taxi, bus , train .....whatever ......never drive
      Sounds about what I heard, but I heard that the passengers are liable for 300,000 yen fine. No jail time on the passengers, but 300,000 yen can be hard to swallow.

      Also, as for drinking in the car for passengers, front/back seat, etc. As far as I've been told by anyone, this is ok, unlike the US. I have often myself kicked back a few beers in the car, usually front seat. Also, this is all just what I'm told by natives. There is a chance they could be wrong on the law (although I have it from a few independant sources. I doubt they're wrong, but if you are really worried, you could look it up or ask a police officer, lawyer, judge, etc.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by madmaxxam
        the passengers are liable for 300,000 yen fine.
        That means, each passenger pays 300,000 fine.

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        • #5
          every Nihonjin I know who drives will have nothing to do with drinking. They drink water. safe to say they know the system.

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          • #6
            Seems no one really knows for sure...

            Thanks folks. The clarity on the fines, etc., is nice to know.

            But I'm still really curious about passenger liability if the passenger doesn't have have a license or doesn't know the driver had been drinking. The latter question is an interesting one, I think, since it seems pretty unfair to end up with a police record if you didn't KNOW you were doing anything wrong. Obviously you could try to make the drive reimburse you for the 300,000 yen, but to have a record?

            The question got brought up at my work because I have a friend who drinks and drives quite often. We go to the golf range or something and have a couple while we practice and then we end up in the sticky situation on me trying to tell him not to drive or tell him that I'll take the train because I don't want to be involved in any problems with the law over here, but it gets into that "oh, come on, man... I'm fine" situation. I also happen to know that he's perfectly capable of driving after a litre of beer because he has an insanely high tolerance. When we've discussed it, he claims that the law is that I am 100% NOT liable in any way if something happens because I have no license (nor international permit). If he's right then, frankly, I have no problem riding with him.

            But, if I AM liable, I need to put my foot down (which is not an easy thing to do with a good friend about something like this - it's often taken as a personal attack, as you all know).

            Compound the problem by the fact that my friend is a recovering alcoholic (and not recovering so well at the moment) who, by way of that fact, is quite sensitive and or stubborn about the issue.

            I'm not really looking for advice about how to communicate with my friend, however - that's my own issue. But this LAW thing is a key to if and/or how I approach the subject.

            Don't suppose Paul or TH have any ideas? Or are there any internet resources that explain Japanese law in English?

            Cheers folks,
            Stephen

            Comment


            • #7
              Did a quick google search, and I couldn't find anything official, just a couple of articles about the "new" law. The articles just say "each/every passenger". They never mention anything about who has a liscence. Mind you, this isn't official. I would ere on the side of caution until you find out the truth though.

              Oh, and it seems the fines are variable. Count on at least 200,000 - 300,000 though.

              Comment


              • #8
                Me too - and no luck

                I spent an hour last night searching all over the place, even going as far as hitting up university homepages of foreigners who study Japanese law - NOTHING. There must be a resources SOMEWHERE for foriegners living in Japan on laws - not only this particular one, but laws in general.

                I might just pop down to the PD and ask them. In the meantime, if anyone else has any ideas about my questions, please share! ^_^

                Cheers,
                - Stephen

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by stevehelium
                  I spent an hour last night searching all over the place, even going as far as hitting up university homepages of foreigners who study Japanese law - NOTHING. There must be a resources SOMEWHERE for foriegners living in Japan on laws - not only this particular one, but laws in general.

                  I might just pop down to the PD and ask them. In the meantime, if anyone else has any ideas about my questions, please share! ^_^

                  Cheers,
                  - Stephen
                  If you do go, and find out, please post what you find out. I am curious. Japanese laws always seem to confuse gaijin.

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                  • #10
                    I heard it was all passengers who were not minors... this info from the guy at the licensing center in Akashi who came to chat me up while I was waiting for a friend to fail his bike test.
                    I presume you can be fined even if you are not licensed to drive.
                    Other ppl who can be fined are the person who gave/bought them a drink knowing they were going to drive, the owner of the car, if the said car belongs to someone other than the drunk driver and a few others but I forget.
                    So if your friend drives to your house, has a few beers and you let him drive off, you might just get fined if your friend is too honest to tell the police he bought the beer from a vending machine.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      All pretty strict, I must say

                      Strict can be good, but, as in my original post, I would find it hard to believe that an passenger, unaware that the driver had been drinking, would have to fork out 300,000 yen.

                      I will go ask. I have not had time (or the balls, really - my Japanese is not perfect), to go and ask yet. But it is a very interesting question. I spent a further 3 or 4 HOURS on the web trying to find information on ANY Japanese laws, and all I could find was info on finance/business law and the like. Nothing about criminal law.

                      Seems to be something severely lacking for us foreigners who live here. Are me meant to GUESS what the laws are?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by stevehelium
                        Seems to be something severely lacking for us foreigners who live here. Are me meant to GUESS what the laws are?
                        Yes, that way more of us will break said laws, and get hit with fines and/or deportation.

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                        • #13
                          An Unofficial explanation

                          He folks.

                          Went with my future father-in-law to Maizuru today and asked him what the "law" regarding the question at hand is. Here's what he said.

                          ANY person of DRIVING AGE, regardless of whether or not they have a valid license AND regardless of whether they KNOW the driver has been drinking AND regardless of where they are stting (front or back seat), IS fined 300,000 yen if the driver is pulled over and gets a ticket for DUI/DWI.

                          The explanation I was given about "driving age" was that those folks who are old enough to drive are certainly old enough to know better. Makes sense to me.

                          Additionally, and I believe this was also said by another poster, if someone is pulled over and actually tells the police that they were drinking at so-and-so's house, the house owner or renter (whoever's name the deed is in) is fined 300,000 yen.

                          So, in answer to all my original questons: DON'T PUT ANY ALCOHOL IN A CAR, PERIOD, if you want to avoid problems.

                          Drinking by passengers IS allowed under Japanese law, but, according to my future father-in-law, if cops see that it tends to draw attention and you might get harassed, especially being foreigners.

                          This is your brain. This is your brain on alcohol in Japan. This is your brain on alcohol in Japan in a car. This is your exciting 300,000 yen "prize".

                          I'll go with all the posters who said - BEST TO JUST BE AS ANAL AND CAREFUL AS THE JAPANESE ARE.

                          Cheers,
                          - stephen

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by stevehelium
                            Additionally, and I believe this was also said by another poster, if someone is pulled over and actually tells the police that they were drinking at so-and-so's house, the house owner or renter (whoever's name the deed is in) is fined 300,000 yen.
                            Hmmm... if I, or anyone I ever know gets pulled over for a DUI in Japan, I'll make sure that I, or the person, tells the cops the name of some guy's house that I hate... that'll show 'em. How do the cops verify where you were drinking? That it was at someone's house? If it was just you visiting a friend, that's very heresay. You say, "I drank there officer", your friend says, "He hasn't been over my house in weeks." That part seems really open to abuse.

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                            • #15
                              same as most laws

                              I agree. You could potentially make someone's life hell by claiming you got drunk at their place. But there are tons of laws like that and even falsly accusing someone of just about anything can make a hassle for a short or long time, depending on how long it takes to show evidence that clearly shows that one was not involved.

                              'spose if there's someone you hate, might as well try to bring them down if you get caught! ;p

                              BTW, where in Suita do ya live? I'm here too. Just curious - not many foreigners in this area.

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