Finished your six drinks? Then it’s time to get behind the wheel!

As we experienced first-hand in our series on getting a driver’s license in Japan, the test course is no joke. Driving through it constitutes an extensive check of your driving abilities and perception in a number of different skill sets, including tight S-turns and the dreaded chicane-like section known as “the crank.”

But earlier this month at Chikushino Driving Schoool in the town of Chikushino, Fukuoka Prefecture, there was an extra degree of difficulty added for the drivers going around the test course: the drivers were extremely drunk.

In the above video of the special event, held on August 21, you’ll notice the driver looks like he’s about to fall asleep as soon as he gets behind the wheel. That’s because before starting his drive around the test course, the school staff sat him down and gave him a beer. Then they gave him a highball…and then another highball…and then another. In total, the man downed one beer and five highballs over the course of 90 minutes, enough so that when he was administered a breathalyzer test, the result was 0.8 milligrams of alcohol per liter of breath, well beyond the legal limit of 0.15 milligrams per liter for driving under Japanese law.

Sufficiently soused, after getting in the car and firing up the engine, he wasted no time driving right into a cone in the slalom section of the course, and things don’t get any better when he gets to the crank, plows the front end of the car into the hanging metal rods meant to simulate a solid wall, and then drops a tire off the road while attempting to back up and correct his approach angle.

This was actually the man’s second lap around the test course that day. The participants, a mix of local residents and media members, did their first run sober, then went back inside the school building to get liquored up before their second run, with some commendably brave instructors riding along in the passenger seat. Another participant was given three drinks (one beer and one glass each of umeshu plum wine and shochu cut with water), enough to have him at around double the legal limit for driving.

While Japan has an enthusiastic and accommodating drinking culture, the point of all this wasn’t just so that participants could enjoy some free drinks. In 2022, the Fukuoka Prefectural Police caught 1,391 motorists who were driving while intoxicated, and 1,122 of them, 80.7 percent, were found to be above the “heavily intoxicated” threshold of more than 25 milligrams of alcohol per liter of breath, which carries a heavier punishment than those in the 0.15 to 0.24-milligram range. Statistics haven’t shown much improvement for 2023, with 883 drunk drivers in the prefecture and 76.1 percent of them in the heavily intoxicated category.

Officials say that the root of the problem is that even if people know that they’re not supposed to drive while drunk, they’re overconfident about their ability to still be able to drive safely as long as they drive slowly and carefully. An alcohol-lubricated mind isn’t particularly good at judging or remembering what’s actually slow and careful, though, and even if an intoxicated driver does manage to pass those mental checks, their motor skills aren’t likely to be up to the task of safely following through. Through the drunk driving event, the organizers want to provide better context of just how diminished driving skills become with alcohol. Even for those who didn’t personally take part, watching video of the event gives them a frame of reference, since Japan’s driving test courses are more or less standardized. Everyone with a license will have had to go through those sections without incident when taking their final driving test, and seeing how difficult they become again while intoxicated will hopefully make it easy to understand and remember how dangerous it is to drive drunk.

Source: YouTube/FBS福岡放送ニュース via Jin, Mainichi Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
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