Police in Japan have implemented an unusual strategy in order to prevent drunk driving: encouraging people to consume alcohol and then letting them loose on a driving course.
The initiative is part of an awareness campaign organized by the Chikushino Police Department in Fukuoka, southwest Japan, after three children were killed by a drunk driver on a local bridge in August 2006.
The latest edition was held at the Chikushino Automobile School in Chikushino City on August 22. In total, 10 people took part, including a 77-year-old.
Driving instructors assessed the participants on their reflexes and driving skills when they were sober and then they were given enough alcohol to be over the legal limit.
Instructors rode in each car during the initiative, which took place inside the driving school, a police spokesperson told CNN.
“The purpose of this hands-on event was to allow drivers to experience for themselves the difference between driving before and after drinking and to get a sense of how dangerous drunk driving can be,” the police spokesperson said.
Many participants said that the experience revealed how they had been “overconfident” in their ability to drive under the influence of alcohol, and had made more errors than they thought they would, according to the spokesperson.
And some reported that even though they felt like they were fine to drive after drinking, they then noticed that their ability to control the vehicle was affected.
“We hope that more drivers will realize how dangerous drunk driving is,” said the police spokesperson.
Japan has a relatively low level of alcohol consumption, according to a 2021 study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which factors in the impact of the pandemic, but social drinking is commonplace during festivities.
The Japanese drink about 8 liters of pure alcohol per year per capita – that’s roughly equivalent to 1.6 bottles of wine or about 3 liters of beer per week per person.
Alcohol consumption in Japan waned during the pandemic, with restrictions hitting the business of bars and other places selling drinks.
The drop in sales also dragged down liquor tax revenues, prompting a controversial campaign by the Japanese government in 2022 aimed at encouraging young people to drink more alcohol.
But Japan’s Health Ministry has in the past warned of the dangers of drinking too much. In a post on its website in 2021, it called excessive alcohol consumption a “major social problem” that persisted despite the recent slowdown in consumption. And it urged people with unhealthy drinking habits to “reconsider” their relationship with alcohol.