Navy's new traffic instruction toughens drunken-driving rules on Pacific bases
February 27, 2005
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Under a revised Navy traffic and driving instruction for Japan bases, drivers can be busted for drunken driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.03 percent — the same as off base — and drivers must sign a warning about abandoning vehicles before they can register a car.
The instruction, approved in January by Commander of Naval Forces Japan Adm. Frederic Ruehe, revised driving, traffic safety and vehicle registration rules.
It standardizes several items that had been at local commanders’ discretion, and makes several violations punitive — so breaking them is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The changes are designed to protect the base population, prevent dangerous activity such as drunken driving and to keep the bases in step with local Japanese regulations, said Force Judge Advocate Capt. Erick Armstrong.
The most notable changes include a new drunken-driving violation and greater and consistent punishments across all Navy bases.
As is the case off base, drivers with a BAC of 0.03 percent to 0.05 percent will be charged with the new crime, driving while drinking indicated (DWDI), which carries a 30-day driving suspension.
The lower level translates to about two beers in an hour for a 150-pound man.
Driving with a BAC of between 0.05 and 0.1 percent, categorized as driving while under the influence (DUI), now carries a mandatory driver’s license suspension of six months to a year.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI), a BAC of 0.1 percent or higher, now carries a mandatory two-year driver’s license suspension. In the past, base commanders decided the length for a suspension.
“The message really is don’t drink and drive,” said CNFJ Safety Director Winky White. “It’s not to punish people, it’s to prevent them from getting hurt.”
The instruction adds other rules consistent with Japanese law. Cell phone use is prohibited while driving on base, as it now is in Japan — either talking on the phone or looking at the screen.
Many bases had banned cell phone use while driving, but the new instruction makes the offense a crime.
Vehicles on base are now subject to the same noise rules as dictated by Japanese officials off base. For example, Yokosuka City prohibits noise above 45 decibels — about that of a loud air conditioner — so the base will continue the same limit on base.
“That may effect some people who have modified their vehicles,” Armstrong said.
The instruction makes it a crime to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, even if the keys are not in the ignition. Alcohol can be in the vehicle if the original seal is unbroken.
The instruction adds a clause about loaning vehicles. Motorists are prohibited from loaning their vehicle to someone who could be considered unsafe due to alcohol, drugs, illness, exhaustion or fatigue.
The instruction adds several rules about vehicle registration, also in sync with Japanese regulations. Vehicle owners soon will need to pay a one-time fee for vehicle recycling and those living off base more than 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles) away will have to show proof that they have a parking spot for every vehicle registered.
Those living on a base or within 2 kilometers will have to show proof of their address to the Vehicle Registration Office instead.
The rules affect anyone who purchased a car or changed residences since September.
To combat a problem with abandoned vehicles, owners now will have to sign a vehicle responsibility form that reminds them of the consequences of abandoning a vehicle.
“We have tools where we can come after them,” Armstrong said. “It’s a debt to the United States that must be paid.”
Owners must deregister their vehicles and pay to junk them. Cars found abandoned can be traced to their owners through the vehicle identification number and owners will be responsible for about $600 in fees.
The instruction also changes the requirement for motorcyclists. Anyone who cannot prove motorcycle-driving experience will be limited to a 400 cc engine or smaller for the first year.
Like in Japan, the base will have graduated licensing rather than a blanket motorcycle operator’s permit so drivers will need to test and be licensed for the specific motorcycle category they intend to drive.
Motorcyclists also must wear full- or three-quarter-length helmets. Half-size and novelty helmets are prohibited. And motorcyclists must wear an international orange or lime green reflective garment on the outside during the day or night — which means over a backpack.
Most of the instruction changes followed local laws or attempt to standardize laws across all CNFJ bases, but the motorcycle regulations are a result of recent incidents, White said.
Most of the CNFJ fatalities recently in personal vehicles occurred on motorcycles.
“We’re trying to protect our people from themselves,” Armstrong said.
Overview of changes
The new CNFJ instruction revises Navy traffic and driving rules for Japan bases including Yokosuka and Sasebo Naval bases, Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Navy bases in Okinawa.
The rules apply in Diego Garcia, which falls under CNFJ, but sailors there don’t have private vehicles.
At Naval Air Facility Misawa, part of Misawa Air Base, sailors fall under Air Force regulations, many of which are identical to the new Navy rules.
Each base determines when the new rules go into effect. Yokosuka Naval Base and Naval Air Facility Atsugi will start enforcing the new rules March 1.
Here is an overview of the changes and modifications:
Driving while drinking indicated (DWDI) — blood alcohol content between .03 and up to .05 percent; 30-day driving suspension.Driving while under the influence (DUI) — BAC between .05 and up to 0.1; mandatory driver’s license suspension of six months to a yearDriving while intoxicated (DWI) — BAC of 0.1 percent or higher; two-year driver’s license suspension.Vehicle registration:
Vehicle owners will soon pay a one-time fee for vehicle recycling.Those living more than 2 kilometers from base will have to show proof that they have a parking spot for every vehicle registered.Those living on a base or within 2 kilometers off base will have to show proof of their address to the Vehicle Registration Office instead.Responsibility form:
Owners will now have to sign a vehicle responsibility form that reminds them of the consequences of abandoning a vehicle.Owners who abandon or fail to deregister a vehicle will be required to pay fees of about $600, even if they leave Japan.Motorcycles:
Anyone who cannot prove motorcycle-driving experience will be limited to a 400 cc engine or smaller for the first year.Bases will have graduated licensing based on motorcycle type.Motorcyclists must wear full or three-quarter helmets and international orange or lime green reflective garments worn on the outside day or night.Other rules:
Cell phone use now prohibited while driving on base.Noise violation policy consistent with local laws.Prohibition against open containers in any vehicle, stopped or in motion.— Stars and Stripes