MPs on Okinawa boost drunken-driving enforcement for the holidays
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — To make sure motorists don’t get too jolly when celebrating the holiday season, military police on Okinawa have begun their annual “3D Campaign.”
3D stands for “drunk and drugged driving,” and the joint service campaign is aimed at reducing alcohol and drug-related accidents during the holiday season. There will be random traffic checkpoints at base gates and other locations, and displays of signs, posters and wrecked cars will remind motorists not to drive while intoxicated.
“We’re going to increase our enforcement at the gates,” said Marine 1st Lt. Matthew R. Beatty, assistant operations officer for the Provost Marshal’s office on Camp Foster. “We’re putting a lot of manpower into this. We’ll have out ‘safe and sober’ checkpoints where we’ll screen motorists for impairment.”
At many of the checkpoints, he said, Marine, Air Force and Army MPs will be working together under the umbrella of the Council for Okinawa Protection and Police Services.
Beatty said the drunken-driving law in Japan is stricter than that of the United States. A blood alcohol content (BAC), reading of 0.03 is considered driving while impaired in Japan.
“For most individuals, that is just one drink, so if you’ve had a beer or a shot, you could be in for a rude awakening if stopped by the Japanese police,” he said. “It could put a lot of people in jeopardy if they get behind the wheel after having only one drink.”
Beatty noted that in the United States an average of one alcohol-related fatality occurs every 30 minutes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17,013 people were killed in accidents involving impaired drivers in 2003.
There were 50 alcohol or drug-related automobile mishaps involving Americans on Okinawa in 2003, according to military police.
On the bases, a person with a BAC of 0.05 is considered driving under the influence and 0.10 promotes them to a more serious driving-while-intoxicated level. In either case, the driver risks having his or her vehicle impounded, driving privileges revoked and possible disciplinary action.
Ultimately, the consequences could be worse for a military member.
“You could lose more than your license and your car,” he said. “"You could be reduced in rank, lose your pay, lose your career and go to jail.”
But that’s not as bad as what can happen if the driver is not caught before he is involved in an accident, Beatty said.
“You could lose your life or kill someone else,” he said.
If the driver is charged with driving under the influence in a Japanese court, he or she faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The maximum sentence for driving while intoxicated is three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
According to the prefectural police, Okinawa has more drunken- driving arrests per capita than any other prefecture in Japan.
“So we cooperate closely with them to make sure we’re doing our part to reduce the numbers,” Beatty said.
“Our basic message is if you’re going out for a drink or two, have a plan,” he said. “Make arrangements for a taxi or go out with a designated driver.”
He said many commands on the island have designated-=driver programs.
Besides the checkpoints, military police will give safety briefings to units and participate in the annual “Beating the Blues” presentations put on by Marine Corps Community Services during the holidays to combat depression. The campaign also will reach the base schools with a banner contest for children in kindergarten through sixth grade and an essay contest for students in the middle and high schools.
Recently, the Council for Okinawa Protection and Police Services monthly radio call-in show on American Forces Network focused on the 3D Campaign, and a short video on one of the commanders’ channels on cable television dramatizes the lives affected by just one drunken-driving fatality.
“In general, over the last decade the number of DUI and DWI arrests in the U.S. has decreased slightly,” Beatty said. “But even one offense in that category is too much.”