Economy More Important than Lives? The “State’s Intentions” Seen after the Fatal Electric Kickboard Accident | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Economy More Important than Lives? The “State’s Intentions” Seen after the Fatal Electric Kickboard Accident

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A sobriety checkpoint for electric kickboard users was conducted by the Metropolitan Police Department around JR Shibuya Station on October 15 in response to a surge in drunk driving on electric kickboards (Photo: Kyodo News)

Stumbling over a car stop of only 10 cm ……

Late at night on September 25, the first fatal accident involving an electric kickboard occurred. A 52-year-old man living in Minato-ku, Tokyo, hit a car stop about 10 cm high and fell. He hit his head hard on the ground and was rushed to the hospital, where he was confirmed dead the next day on September 26. According to news reports, the man had been drinking and was intoxicated. Security camera footage of the accident scene showed a man on an electric kickboard going back and forth in the vicinity of the accident site, as if he had lost his way.

The parking lot of the condominium where the fatal accident occurred was adjacent to a public space, and there were no signs prohibiting entry to the area, so it was a normal area for non-residents of the condominium to pass. There is a port for LUUP, an electric kickboard sharing service, about 130 to 140 meters from the accident site, and it is highly likely that the deceased man rented an electric kickboard there.

In addition, on May 25, 2022, the Metropolitan Police Department requested “LUUP” to stop nighttime rentals. Of the three companies involved in the sharing business in Tokyo, LUUP was the only one that also rented out vehicles late at night. After the request, nighttime rentals were suspended at some portals in the downtown area for two months from July to August, but as a result, accidents still occurred at night.

As of November 2002, 10 years ago, the National Police Agency’s Traffic Bureau stated in “So-called ‘Electric Kickboards’ and ‘Electric Scooters'” that they are treated as motorized bicycles under the Road Traffic Law (Article 2, Paragraph 1, Item 10). Like bicycles, they are often seen as easy vehicles, but they are also required to sign a liability insurance (mutual aid) contract, pay local taxes (municipal tax), and install a sign (license plate) issued by the relevant municipality.

In reality, however, there have been moves behind the scenes that run counter to the emphasis on safety and the protection of human life. A typical example of this is the “special exception electric kickboard,” which is the same type of electric kickboard that caused the fatal accident. In order to make them accessible to more people, they should not be treated as “mopeds,” but rather as “small special motor vehicles” that run at speeds of 15 km/h or less, which would remove the requirement to wear helmets and make it easier for many people to ride them. Therefore, companies approved by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry can conduct “demonstration experiments” as part of their business on the condition that they comply with these rules established by the relevant ministries (e.g., positioning the vehicle as a small special motor vehicle, setting the maximum speed at 15 km/h, and allowing the vehicle to travel in a special traffic zone for ordinary bicycles). Luup Corporation and four other businesses started the program, which has now increased to 14 businesses.

Furthermore, in April of this year, a new rule for electric kickboards was passed and enacted at a plenary session of the House of Representatives. The new rules are expected to take effect around April 2024.

Director Tsuyoshi Shinjo moves around on an electric kickboard at camp this February. This ease of use is also a selling point. …… (Photo: Kyodo News)

The number of accidents involving electric kickboards is at a higher pace than last year.

Contrary to the efforts to demonstrate “safety with no helmets” through demonstration tests of electric kickboards, the number of accidents involving electric kickboards has skyrocketed. According to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, there were 68 accidents involving injury or property damage caused by electric kickboards in Tokyo in the year 2021, and 80 in 2022 as of the end of August, a pace far exceeding that of last year.

In addition, drunk driving is also on the rise. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, 13 men and women in their 10s-30s had been caught driving under the influence of alcohol in Tokyo by May 8, 2022, and 12 of them were using LUUP’s “Special Exception Electric Kickboards.” Following a fatal accident in September, TV Asahi’s “Good! Morning” staked out the LUUP port and found that four of the 10 drivers were under the influence of alcohol in just three hours.

What does LUUP think about the fact that a fatal accident occurred during the demonstration test?

LUUP’s policy is that businesses should participate in the demonstration experiment, which was conducted by the relevant ministries and agencies to study traffic rules for the safe and convenient use of electric kickboards (e.g., placing them in the category of small special motor vehicles, setting the maximum speed at 15 km/h, and allowing them to ride in the zones reserved for regular bicycles).

Until the revised Road Traffic Law comes into effect, we will continue to work with the relevant ministries and agencies to verify the safety and convenience of electric micromobility so that it can properly take root in society.

One possible benefit of this “examination of traffic rules” is economic revitalization. In view of the fatal accident that occurred this time with no helmet, we must say that the perspective of “traffic safety” is missing.

It is the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry that has approved this helmetless driving electric kickboard sharing business. In response to the fatal accident, it was thought that the Ministry would first emphasize safety and shift to measures to ensure that helmets are worn, but it turned out that the Ministry approved extensions of demonstration tests for Company H on September 30 and Company Y on October 7, just four days after the fatal accident. In other words, despite the fatal accident, it is not surprising that behind the scenes there is still an effort to promote “no-help driving” of electric kickboards.

The Consumer Products Division of the Manufacturing Industries Bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry responded as follows.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Consumer Products Division responded as follows: “We will only cancel a demonstration experiment if the operator requests us to do so or if there is a violation of law or regulation in the operator’s activities. As long as we have given permission for the application, we will not request the suspension of the experiment simply because a fatal accident occurred during the period of the experiment. Basically, we plan to continue the demonstration experiment until April 2024.”

The April 2024 date mentioned in METI’s response is when the revised Road Traffic Law regarding specified small motorized bicycles, which no longer require a license, is expected to come into effect. The man who was confirmed dead on September 26 was killed when he tripped over a 10-centimeter-long car stop and hit his head hard, even though he was driving under the influence of alcohol. He was killed. Why can’t we take a serious look at the death of a man whose life was taken in the blink of an eye by a carefree driver?

The same type of electric kickboard that the deceased was riding late at night on September 25 (photo by Hiroto Kato)
A curb only 10 centimeters high (right) and the tire of an electric kickboard; as was the case in the fatal accident late at night on September 25, a rider could have died if he tripped over the curb at this height and hit his head (photo by Hiroto Kato).
  • Interview and text Kumiko Kato

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