Friday, December 05, 2003


Driving in Japan is quite complicated and expensive. Those who cannot
read the language will have trouble understanding road signs. Highway
tolls are assessed at about US $1 per mile. City traffic is often very
congested. A 20-mile trip in the Tokyo area may take two hours. There is
virtually no roadside parking. In mountainous areas, roads are often
closed during the winter, and cars should be equipped with tire chains.

Foreigners should be alert to traffic on secondary roads, which does
not come to a full stop at traffic lights or stop signs. Roads in Japan
are much narrower than those in the United States. Vehicular traffic
moves on the left. Turns at red lights are forbidden unless specifically

Japanese compulsory insurance is mandatory for all automobile owners
and drivers in Japan. Your local auto insurance taken from your own country likely does not provide
coverage in Japan.

Accidents and Liability:
Japanese law provides that all persons who drive in Japan are held
liable in the event of an accident, and assesses fault in an accident on
all parties.

Drivers stopped for driving under the influence will have their
licenses confiscated. Laws passed in late 2001 make persons found guilty of
"drunken, speeding or blatantly careless driving that results in death"
subject to up to 15 years in prison, tripling the previous maximum
sentence. Japanese police, under these new laws, will also be permitted to
contact financial institutions directly to determine an offender's
financial status to combat evasion of payment for traffic violations.

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