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CAMP FOSTER — Okinawa prefectural police are increasing the number of traffic checkpoints and patrols during their annual Year-end and New Year Holiday Traffic Safety Campaign.

The two-week campaign is slated to last from Dec. 21 to Jan. 4 throughout the island.

“This is the time of year when we have a high incidence of drunken driving, including fatal cases,” said Osamu Ota, an assistant inspector at the Ginowan Police Station.

Ota said he hoped the revised drunken-driving law and stiffer patrols will reverse the trend.

The modified law, which went into effect in September, imposes harsher penalties for serious traffic violations. Driving under the influence of alcohol can bring a three-year prison term or a maximum fine of 500,000 yen (about $4,500). A driver who clearly is intoxicated — for instance, has difficulty talking coherently or walking a straight line — faces a maximum five-year jail term or a one million yen fine (about $9,000).

The same penalties apply to any person who provides a vehicle to a driver found guilty of driving under the influence. Also, the people who provided alcohol to the drunken driver, and any passengers in the car at the time of the traffic stop, face penalties of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 500,000 yen ($4,500).

Okinawa police statistics show that the revised law is making roads safer on the island, Ota said.

“Awareness is penetrating among people that driving vehicles under the influence of alcohol is a serious criminal act,” Ota said.

A total of 4,579 drivers were arrested or ticketed for DUI or drunken driving on Okinawa between January and October. Okinawa prefecture led the country in DUI arrests per capita last year.


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