biker accident top

Pedestrian crosswalk laws are all over the place no matter where you go. What’s considered jaywalking varies by country, and in the U.S. each state has its own laws for exactly how far the pedestrian needs to have crossed on the crosswalk before you have to stop.

In Japan, typically vehicles are expected to yield to anyone in a crosswalk at all times. That’s why the judge’s decision in a recent landmark case is taking the country by storm right now: a cyclist was killed by a car in a crosswalk, and the motorist was found to be in no way at fault.

On June 2013 in Takasago City, Hyogo Prefecture, a man crossing the street via a crosswalk while riding a bike was hit by a driver making a right turn into the same lane, resulting in the cyclist’s death. Following the accident there was a court ruling handed down to the driver saying that he was at fault, though it is unclear whether he was found to be fully or only partially at fault, and he was ordered to pay 300,000 yen (US$2,480) in compensation.

The driver appealed the decision, and finally on May 19 this year, the second trial came to an end with a new ruling: since the cyclist crossed on a red light, the driver of the car was not at fault, and therefore not guilty. The new ruling overturned the old one, eliminating the previously imposed fine.

It’s not clear if the fact that the cyclist crossed during a red light was brought up in the initial trial or just in the appeal, but it certainly made a big difference in the eyes of the new judge. He ruled that “the accident was caused by the defendant making a [legal] right turn on a green light.” Stating: “He [the driver] does not have the responsibility to be so careful as to ensure that there are no bicycles crossing in the crosswalk when they have a red light [and should have stopped].”

This decision has quickly become a controversial topic in Japan, since usually the driver is found at least partially at fault in pedestrian/cyclist accidents, no matter what. While many are saying that they disagree with the decision, even more seem to agree with it:

▼ “I feel bad for the man who lost his life, but I agree with the court’s decision here.”

▼ “I always thought that the driver was at fault even if they had a green light and the pedestrian/biker had red, so I’m really thankful for this ruling.”

▼ “Well done. This will set a strong precedent.”

▼ “This is groundbreaking. Although, wasn’t that [original] 300,000 yen fine for the first trial a little small?”

What do you think? Is this a judicial travesty or a justifiable outcome? And how would the case be handled in your country?

Source: Asahi Shimbun
Featured/top image: Wikimedia Commons