Why Do Police Turn a Blind Eye to Electric Kickboard Violators Despite Noticing Illegal Driving? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why Do Police Turn a Blind Eye to Electric Kickboard Violators Despite Noticing Illegal Driving?

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The Aichi Prefectural Police have formed a dedicated patrol unit called “B-Force” to patrol on bicycles.

The suspect, who inflicted serious injuries and fled, stated, “I thought I didn’t need a license.”

On February 3rd, in the streets of Naka Ward, Nagoya City, a collision occurred between a 47-year-old man crossing the road and an electric kickboard driven by Suspect X, which had traveled 150 meters in the wrong direction on a one-way street. The man sustained serious injuries. According to surveillance camera footage of the accident scene, after the collision, Suspect X ran towards the man but quickly fled the scene on the electric kickboard.

Subsequent police investigation revealed that Suspect X’s electric kickboard falls under the category requiring a license and helmet. Suspect X admitted to never having obtained a license before and stated, “I thought a license wasn’t required for driving an electric kickboard.”

Regarding the new rules for electric kickboards, FRIDAY Digital has reported on them several times in the past. To recap, on July 1st, 2023, amendments to the Road Traffic Act introduced a new classification called Special Exception Light Motorcycles. To qualify, the vehicle must meet certain criteria regarding size, safety standards, and a maximum speed of 20 km/h, for which a motorcycle license is not required, and wearing a helmet is optional. Generally, they should operate on roads.

Furthermore, within the category of Special Exception Light Motorcycles, vehicles that can be set to speeds of 6 km/h or less are classified as Special Exception Light Motorcycles. These can also travel on sidewalks in bicycle-permissible areas. Neither a license nor a helmet is required, but they must have license plates and compulsory automobile liability insurance.

While it’s uncertain what type of electric kickboard Suspect X was using in the hit-and-run incident, it’s likely an unregistered “wild board,” which is prohibited from operating on public roads and restricted to private property.

New Rules for Electric Kickboards, Only Understood by Few?

More than six months have passed since the start of the new rules for electric kickboards, but likely, only a minority understand them correctly. Many may have a superficial understanding, thinking that electric kickboards can be ridden on sidewalks without a license or helmet, and they are convenient. However, few people can accurately explain the definition of specific light motorcycles or the differences from conventional electric kickboards. Moreover, unless an accident occurs, there is almost no enforcement by the police.

There are also issues with the police. Around the time of last year’s July amendments to the Road Traffic Act, there were a few instances of publicized crackdowns in areas such as Shibuya and Minato wards, where electric kickboard usage is prevalent. However, in other areas, police officers often turn a blind eye to illegal vehicles or violations, or simply give verbal warnings.

We obtained a video that captured such police negligence.

The footage was filmed by Mr. A, who works in Minato Ward, and it depicts the intersection of Roppongi Street and Gaien Nishi Street, known as the Nishi-Azabu Intersection. I asked Mr. A about the situation at that time.

“At the intersection of Nishi-Azabu, I saw a person riding an electric kickboard on the opposite side of the road and a police officer dismounting from a bicycle, waiting. Riding an electric kickboard across the pedestrian crossing while mounted is prohibited. When the signal turned green, I observed to see what the police officer would do. Despite briefly glancing at the electric kickboard, the officer did not issue any warnings. The police officer should have noticed the electric kickboard when waiting at the signal. At that point, they should have taken action, or at the very least, issued a warning.”

While recording the illegal riding behavior, Mr. A approached the police officer who crossed the signal and said, “Officer, please catch this person.” The police officer quickly responded, saying, “Electric kickboards can only be ridden on the road.” and appeared to issue a warning.

Why did they turn a blind eye? According to Mr. A, it may be because the person riding the electric kickboard was a foreigner.

Did the policeman himself have no knowledge of electric kickboards?

By the way, the electric kickboard ridden by the foreigner was a familiar Luup shared electric kickboard, which had a license plate. Although helmets were not required, this type is not allowed to ride on sidewalks.

According to Mr. A, instances of police officers turning a blind eye are frequent around Nishi-Azabu. The author also previously inquired about the leniency of enforcement at the Azabu Police Station. However, they seemed to offer hesitant excuses, mentioning things like “It’s difficult to determine the rated output.” and “We can’t chase after them immediately.” with a lack of confidence.

Electric kickboards are vehicles for those without licenses. Many riders are unaware of road traffic laws, and their awareness of traffic safety is generally low. Some even collide with pedestrians and flee without providing assistance. If there is no license plate, they are likely uninsured. Therefore, even if someone is injured in a collision with an electric kickboard, there is a possibility that they may not receive any compensation for medical expenses or damages. The police need to study electric kickboards more thoroughly and enforce violations more strictly. Otherwise, there is a risk of irreparable “fatal accidents” occurring soon.

  • Interview and text by Kumiko Kato Video provided by Gorozo Machine

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