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Japan police used dashcam evidence in over 90% of road rage cases since law changes

The entrance to Central Government Building No. 2, which houses the National Police Agency, is seen in this file photo taken in Tokyo in 2019. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- Japanese police have used dashcam video evidence in 54 of the 58 road rage investigations pursued in the six months since the Road Traffic Act was amended to criminalize "obstructive driving," according to the National Police Agency (NPA), hinting at the difficulty of building this type of case.

    "The cases we've managed to expose are likely just the tip of the iceberg," one expert commented to the Mainichi Shimbun. This sentiment was echoed by Kazunori Shidoji, a traffic policy and traffic psychology professor at Kyushu University graduate school, when he commented, "I suspect that there are in fact many more cases of road rage."

    Regarding the NPA data showing that police had used dashcam footage in 93.1% of the 58 road rage cases they did pursue, Shidoji stated, "It appears that it (footage) has been very useful, but perhaps it's difficult to put a case together when there's no video."

    For someone to be charged with obstructive driving, authorities must be able to assemble proof that the driver aimed to obstruct the passage of another vehicle. Until the legal revision, police used to explain that they would base their cases on a variety of evidence other than dashcam footage, including security camera footage, tire marks at the scene of the incident, damage to vehicles, and eyewitness testimony.

    But even in cases where a car would suddenly cut off another vehicle, the driver would not be subject to punishment for obstruction if their intention was only to rush ahead of the other motorist, and there are many points that actual investigations have to pursue. In cases where accounts of an incident differ, it is reportedly difficult to put a case together without the kind of concrete evidence of who did what provided by video and other resources.

    Tadanori Yamaguchi, a professor in traffic psychology at Osaka International University, said, "When it comes to proving drivers' intentions, dashcam video has become a key resource." He added, "If police accrue experience with these investigations, then it seems likely that more of these cases will be exposed."

    About the impact of the widespread use of dashcams on motorists overall, Yamaguchi continued, "They don't just record the world outside the car, they also record your own driving, and that puts people in a self-regulating mindset."

    (Japanese original by Noritake Machida, City News Department)

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