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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Cars are on the opposite side of the road, drivers are on the other side of the car and pedestrians are everywhere.

Welcome to driving on Kadena Air Base and Okinawa, where going just a few miles over the limit just once could turn you into a pedestrian, said Col. Chuck Ennis, 18th Missions Support Group deputy commander and the base’s traffic review officer.

Special challenges of driving on the island, he said, include avoiding the bicyclists and pedestrians who literally throng the roadsides every day.

On weekday mornings and afternoons, hundreds of joggers run along streets and roads. Twice a day, 4,000 kids travel to and from Kadena’s six schools, many of them walking or bicycling, Ennis said. This means “we have to be extremely careful when driving here,” which just isn’t possible if you’re speeding, he said.

In 2006, Kadena issued 2,500 tickets, two-thirds of them for moving violations, Ennis said. And six of the accidents involved a car hitting a pedestrian.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, he added, but “that anyone got hit is a problem.”

Then there are the daily close encounters of the vehicle-to-vehicle kind. On a typical day, more than 24,000 cars are on Kadena streets, records show — and three of them are getting in an accident. Of the 109 accidents in November 2006, 39 were rear-end collisions attributed to drivers following too closely or speeding.

“These accidents were certainly preventable if drivers exercised more care,” Ennis said. “We need to do everything we can to prevent these types of accidents, so we strictly enforce traffic regulation(s).”

Base police don’t issue fines for speeding and other traffic violations; instead they add points to a driver’s record. More than six points in any 12-month period results in a six-month suspension of driving privileges.

Points assessed for speeding can be hefty.

According to Kadena traffic regulations, speeding by 2 to 17 kilometers per hour (1.2 to 10.5 mph) is three points, 18 to 25 kph is four points, 26 to 35 kph is five points and 33 to 39 (20.5 to 24.2 mph) is six points. Speeding more than 40 kilometers an hour over the posted limit results in an automatic six-month license suspension.

Speeding in school zones or housing areas is double the points.

For example, if you are caught going 5 kilometers per hour over the limit in a school zone, you will have six points on your record. Any other traffic violation, even a parking violation, will result in a six-month suspension, he said.

And going 20 kilometers per hour over the limit in these areas is an automatic 30-day suspension of driving privileges, he continued, adding that traffic violations garnered off base also will result in points being assessed on your driving record.


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