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Monday October 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday October 27, 2014 MYT 9:11:36 AM
by sarah mori
Getting tough: Traffic wardens clamping down on an illegally parked car.
The authorities get tough on errant drivers.
GONE are the days when the police in Japan used to mark the tyres of illegally parked cars with chalk and give a certain leeway before issuing a ticket.
Since the revised Road Traffic Law took effect in June 2006, drivers who parked their vehicles illegally would be slapped with hefty fines on the spot.
Under the revised system, the crackdown on parking violation is outsourced to the private sector. The traffic wardens making their rounds would take photographic evidence and place a sticker on the vehicle to inform the driver that a fine has been levied. Offenders would face point-based licence penalties, suspensions and even revocations.
City council officers would attach “no parking” warning stickers to the handles of bicycles that caused obstruction or are parked too near train stations. Even a kid’s bicycle parked in front of a subway station received a warning ticket.
The revised law might inconvenience drivers of delivery vehicles and other drivers on a quick errand. Motorists are not spared, too. Nevertheless, these illegally parked vehicles pose a menace.
Once, when I was driving to a flea market in Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama, there was a long queue of cars before the traffic lights, on the narrow lane leading to the venue.
Thinking that the driver of the car in front was waiting in his vehicle parked illegally by the roadside, I overtook it when the traffic started to flow. He moved his car and I was horrified to see an oncoming bus. I swerved into the space in front of his car. Horns blared at me. Phew, that was a close shave!
As I drove on, I saw a policeman tailing me on his motorcycle. He signalled to me to pull over. The furious driver must have alerted the police, for he stopped and stared daggers at me before he drove off after he saw that the policeman had hauled me in.
Fortunately, the policeman let me off after I pleaded and apologised for mistakenly assuming that the driver had parked his car by the wayside.
The roads were congested when my husband and I went for a Chinese New Year celebration in Yokohama Chinatown a couple of years ago. My husband and the driver of the car in front, had to avoid a car parked illegally by the roadside. Koji and the driver in front were flagged down by some policemen waiting down the road.
I wondered what offence we had committed. The policeman explained: “You had crossed over the yellow line a distance back.”
“An illegally parked car was blocking my way. So I had to avoid it. But I’m sure I didn’t cross the yellow line,” Koji reasoned. I vouched for Koji. However, the officer insisted: “Two policemen witnessed it. The law is the law.”
Koji faced a fine plus one demerit point. A few cars behind us were also booked.
Last September, we met with an accident near the junction of the main road near our house. I was riding pillion on a Scrambler with Koji; we were waiting in line at the traffic lights.
Just as Koji was manoeuvring his Scrambler to the front, a pick-up truck suddenly swerved to overtake a parked car in front of it. The truck driver didn’t notice us coming from the side. We were hit and thrown to the opposite lane. Thankfully, there was no oncoming car to add to our injuries. An ambulance came and took us to the hospital.
Two months back, we had a scary experience when we veered to the right lane to avoid an illegally parked car.
Before we moved back to the left lane, a van driver blasted his horn at us from behind. He then deliberately tried to cut into our lane.
Koji honked at him. The driver steered back to his lane. Koji honked again as he swerved into our lane when the opportunity arose.
“Watch out. That driver has gone berserk,” I cautioned Koji.
“I know. He is trying to intimidate us,” Koji remarked.
My heart pounded as I muttered a prayer. I kept looking at the rear mirror to see if he was tailing us. We lost sight of him when we picked up speed and turned into a small lane.
It is no wonder that the clampdown on illegal parking is necessary.
Sarah Mori, a Malaysian married to a Japanese, resides in Japan.
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