A former top bureaucrat of 90 years old will be going to prison for five years for negligence in a Tokyo car accident that claimed the lives of a mother and her 3-year old daughter. Nine other people were also injured.
Tokyo District Court found that Kozo Iizuka (former chief of Agency of Industrial Science and Technology) was guilty of stomping down on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal for about 10 seconds. The car then accelerated up to 96 km/h.
Iizuka had pleaded not guilty, claiming that a mechanical problem with the car caused the accident. This high-profile case has sparked debate about the growing number of elderly drivers driving on Japanese roads and the potential dangers.
In delivering the ruling, Presiding Judge Kenji Shimotsu stated that he expected Iizuka to acknowledge his negligence and responsibility. The vehicle inspection after the accident showed that there were no abnormalities with the car that would suggest a malfunction.
Takuya Matsunaga (35-year-old husband and dad of the victims) told reporters that he was relieved that Iizuka got sentenced. He said that it gave him the motivation to continue moving forward.
Prosecutors wanted Iizuka to serve a seven-year sentence. They claimed that no issues with the car were discovered in an inspection after the accident. There was no evidence that he applied the brakes during the incident.
Iizuka, who was in a wheelchair during his trial, said he might have Parkinson’s disease. However, he expects to be sentenced as other defendants if the ruling comes down.
It may take a while, however, for Iizuka to be successful.
Hisashi Sonoda is a Konan University professor emeritus in criminal law. He said that the objective evidence of the court is an indication of solid fact-finding and that the sentence will be upheld, even if appeal comes through.
Reports stated that, Iizuka drove through a red light accidentally” hitting the gas pedal thinking it was the brake pedal. The car then hit Mana Matsunaga (31) and Riko (3) when his vehicle drove onto a pedestrian crossing in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro on April 19, 2019.
The total injured amounted to nine including his wife, whom he was driving with in that car.
Iizuka was also hurt in the accident and was hospitalized. He was indicted in February without arrest. The general mass was enraged and they claimed that he was let go too easily because of his former government post.
According to police data, a record of 601,022 driver’s licenses were surrendered in 2019. Of these, 350,428, or 58.3 percent, belonged to people 75 and older. This is an increase of 58,339 over the previous year.
According to the National Police Agency data, 6.9 fatal traffic accidents were reported per 100,000 licensed holders aged 75 and older in 2019, which was more than twice the number recorded for those under 75.
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