Oct 30, 2018
It has been illegal to use a smartphone / text on a flip phone while driving in Japan since 2003. This includes while you're on the road but stopped in traffic or at a red light.
There's a good reason for that.
Since 2016 the game Pokemon Go doesn't work if you're traveling over a certain speed. There are plenty of articles depicting fatal car accidents where the driver was using a smartphone.
The usual punishment for drivers who cause accidents resulting in death is two years in prison. The same happens with those riding a bicycle while using a smartphone – there have been fatalities when pedestrians were hit by a bicycle.
I can't even manage using a phone while riding a bicycle, so with a tinge of jealousy, I'm irritated when I see people riding while looking at their phones. After all, it's dangerous!
The same with those walking while staring at their phones, crossing streets without looking, running into things and tripping.
As someone who hasn't owned a car in over seven years, I hate seeing drivers using phones. I've taken to obnoxiously ringing my bike bell when I'm grumpy enough, signalling to the drivers (if they can even hear me) that they're doing something illegal and should pay attention. I also do this when cars drive or park in bike lanes and on sidewalks for some reason. It drives me nuts.
I'm not sure why most Japanese cars have TVs installed on the dashboard, playing the news or something while the driver is driving. I thought these didn't work while the car was moving, but I heard that now they do. How is that safer than using a smart phone while driving? How can anyone watch where they're going with several things going on at once? Some drivers struggle with simply talking to passengers while navigating.
The point is that phones and other things distract drivers.
Distracted drivers equals dangerous drivers.
Despite that Japan's drinking and driving laws are appropriately very strict and it's one of the safer countries to drive in, I still feel like drivers in Japan are often impatient and reckless.
There's a reason I stopped driving before I even moved to Japan. I don't enjoy it. I feel anxious when I drive. It's also an extra expense and I wasn't in need of a car for getting to work at the time.
When I had plans to move to Japan for work, I briefly considered an international drivers license, or even getting the motorcycle license so I could ride a scooter legally in Japan. I ended up not having enough time, but honestly, I already knew I wouldn't want to drive in Japan. I had seen the narrow roads with tiny cars whipping around curves. I didn't want anything to do with driving in Japan. I still don't.
I live in a much more car centered city than I was expecting. Unlike bigger cities with tons of public transportation, most people here own a car and drive. There is air pollution from it too, compared with when we get out of the city a little. The thing is, our city has good public transportation. Besides two train lines there's a great bus system with frequent service.
I don't like cars. A lot of other people do, and that's fine. My issue is with the fact that some people are so addicted to their phones that they will not drive safely and follow the law against using phones while driving.
My suggestion is that they should take the train or the bus if they need to use their phones so badly while commuting. Everyone on the train already stares at their phone the whole time so they'll fit right in.