How heinous a crime is using a smartphone while driving?

On 27 January, Japan’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence of a driver who struck and killed a woman while he was operating a vehicle and playing Pokémon GO at the same time. As a result, 28-year-old Yusuke Okuyama’s request for a suspended sentence was turned down and he must serve the two years and six months in prison.

The incident happened in August of 2016, when a 29-year-old Vietnamese woman was crossing a street in Kasugai City, Aichi Prefecture. Okuyama was reportedly trying to plug in a charger for his phone which was running Pokémon GO at the time, when his car veered into another lane and struck the woman who died in hospital weeks later.

This was the second Pokémon GO related car accident to occur within weeks of the game’s release. Earlier, a truck driver hit a nine-year-old boy and was sentenced to three years in prison.

While the sentencing isn’t new, it sparked renewed debate online with many wondering if these punishments are too lenient.

“He got off easy.”

“The smartphone isn’t really the point. Someone died.”

“I wonder what he would have gotten had he just been using a map application.”

“It’s actually rare to get any prison time when it’s not a hit-and-run or drunk driving incident.”

“It’s ridiculous that this even made it to the Supreme Court.”

“I don’t know why killing someone with a car deserve less of a punishment as killing someone with a knife. Someone dies either way.”

“He didn’t intend to kill the woman though. I imagine the weight of his guilt would factor into his punishment.”

It certainly is difficult to measure human life in terms of years spent behind bars. According to Okuyama’s previous verdicts, the fact that he was using a smartphone rather than being otherwise distracted did play a role. All judges agreed that it was “clearly beyond simple negligence,” and worthy of time in prison.

Then again, it’s hard to hear this sentence and not think about the woman who “accidentally” killed her employee because she beat him too much, but never spent a day in prison.

Prison sentences seem to have as much to do with justice as they do any number of things like wealth, fame, trending apps, or plain luck.

Source: NHK News Web,
Top image: Pakutaso