CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa police say they’re determined this season to help their prefecture dump a title it’s held for 15 years: Japan’s top drunken driving rate.

“This is the 15th straight year that Okinawa recorded the highest occurrence of alcohol-related accidents in the country,” said Kazuhiro Toma, assistant chief of the Traffic Planning Department, Okinawa prefectural police headquarters in Naha.

And as police across Japan Monday kicked off their annual holiday push to curb drunken driving, Toma dismissed as an optimistic fallacy that the language barrier would dissuade Japanese police from stopping vehicles bearing the Y-license plates affiliated with the U.S. military.

“We have interpreters on duty for 24 hours,” he said.

“Police will never overlook anyone who drives a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, no matter who he is.”

As part of their annual holiday campaign, Japanese police said, more officers will be patrolling the highways. Police also will increase sobriety checks and monitor speeding and other traffic violations, especially at sites where accidents frequently occur, including highways 58 and 329, Toma said.

Of the 76 traffic fatalities on Okinawa this year — including three U.S. servicemembers — “27 cases are alcohol related,” Toma said, “which is about 35.5 percent ... while the national average is 10 percent.”

Okinawa traffic fatalities also are up over 2002, when vehicle accidents claimed 60 lives, police statistics show.

The total number of traffic accidents on Okinawa as of Dec. 21 was 5,765, an increase of 149 over the previous year, according to the police statistics.

The breathalyzer limit in Japan — the legal level for alcohol registered in a liter of air — is 0.15 milligrams.

Under the Japanese Traffic Law, a driver who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol will face a maximum fine of 300,000 yen (about $2,800). A driver who clearly is intoxicated — has difficulty talking coherently or walking a straight line, for instance — faces a fine of 500,000 yen (about $4,600).

A driver involved in a fatal accident while under the influence of alcohol or intoxicated could be charged with highway manslaughter under the Criminal Code, Toma said. The maximum penalty for drunken driving resulting in death is 15 years in prison. For drunken driving that led to injury, the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison, he said

“Many drivers who were apprehended told police that they had thought that drinking beer of only a glass or so would not harm them,” Toma said. “Others confessed that they could get by without being caught.”

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