U.S. Forces Japan personnel must report off-base vehicle incidents to installation law enforcement officials, but punishment is often left to a commander’s discretion, even for minor infractions.

Air Force Col. James Brophy, USFJ’s provost marshal, said there are standard reporting procedures that outline the steps U.S. servicemembers and civilians should take following traffic accidents and violations, both on and off base.

If a military member, Defense Department civilian or dependent is involved in a wreck on base, they are required to notify security forces or military police immediately, according to Brophy. Vehicle accidents and citations outside the gates must be reported to base law enforcement officials at the closest U.S. military installation. That includes offenses for drunken driving, speeding and seat belt use.

If a driver isn’t arrested but is given a citation, he added, that gets forwarded to the home installation for action by the individual’s commander. It may result in a fine or appearance before local Japanese police. Commanders can impose additional points to the driver’s license as well.

In Japan, the police don’t distinguish between a vehicle’s driver and its owner in accidents or cases of misconduct, he said.

So if a U.S. servicemember is operating a car owned by his Japanese girlfriend and gets a ticket or winds up in an accident, “he will be held as the professional driver by the Japanese, regardless of who owns the vehicle. If they commit an infraction, say speeding, he’ll be given the citation — even if it’s his girlfriend’s car,” Brophy said.

Under USFJ guidelines, he must inform officials on base.

South Korean law enforcement officials provide traffic tickets to the nearest military provost marshal office, where the tickets are recorded in the Defense Biometric Identification System.

The MPs then send the tickets through the military postal system.

If an individual receives multiple citations, or doesn’t pay the ticket, the chain-of-command is alerted.

Before leaving Korea, personnel must deregister their vehicles and any unpaid tickets will be flagged.

The U.S.-South Korea Status of Forces Agreement contains a requirement that USFK authorities are alerted if a SOFA member “is detained, arrested or otherwise taken into custody,” according to a USFK response to query.

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