Japanese Drivers Given Alcohol In Unorthodox Bid to Reduce Drunk Driving
In years past, Michael Jackson, Star Wars and Mario Kart have all been recruited for oddball drunk driving campaigns. Now, instructors in Fukuoka, Japan have created the bluntest initiative yet — give drivers alcohol and let them face the results.
Chikushino Driving School recently collaborated with local police for an “experience-based lecture” in which drivers were given beer, umeshu plum wine and shochu spirit before embarking on a rudimentary motorcourse. Participants had to navigate a path of obstacles, an S-shaped bend and a narrow “crank” sequence with tight turns.
Instructors sat in the passenger seat as drivers completed the exercise twice — once sober, once drunk. The results spoke for themselves.
Hyelim Ha, a reporter for the Mainichi newspaper, felt confident enough after he blew a breathalyzer test of .30 mg (twice the legal limit). “My hands are cold and my heart’s beating fast… I’m conscious and I feel like I can drive,” said Ha.
Once the engine revved up, fellow reporters spotted issues. Ha strayed into the opposite lane, rapidly decelerated along straight lines and entered the S-bend at too fast of a speed.
Shojiro Kubota, vice head of the driving school, remarked, “Even though [drinking] slows the skills people need for driving, such as cognitive capacity, judgement and vehicle maneuvering ability, the driver assumes they are driving safely — that’s the danger of drunken driving.”
The unorthodox demonstration coincided with the 17th anniversary of the deaths of three children — aged four, three and one — who had been struck and killed by a drunk government employee in Chikushino.
Since then, DUI incidents in Japan have thankfully trended downwards. In 2022, Japanese authorities reported 120 fatal incidents involving drunk drivers, a decade-low following 238 reported incidents in 2013. Nonetheless, the community remains vigilant.
“We call for people to make thorough risk management before drinking, such as not driving to izakaya pubs in the first place, on the premise that once they are drunk, they cannot make normal judgments.” Yoichi Furukawa, deputy chief of the prefectural police’s traffic enforcement division, told the Mainichi newspaper.
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