US acts to end drunken driving on Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — With a pen as his weapon, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson took aim Tuesday at eliminating drunken driving on Okinawa. History shows that is easier signed than done.
The III Marine Expeditionary Force commander and leaders from each branch of service on the island signed a proclamation announcing the “Drugged and Drunk Driving Awareness and Prevention Campaign” that will last through the holiday season and into the new year.
It urges military commanders and civilian supervisors to promote awareness of why people drive impaired, support programs and policies to reduce the problem, and promote healthier and safer activities.
“I can tell you that although the numbers are down this year, we still will not rest. We will continue to work very, very hard because one is too many, and we have an obligation to ourselves and to the citizens of Okinawa to eliminate all cases of drinking and driving,” Nicholson said.
While the military has succeeded in reducing other crimes by servicemembers, their dependents and civilian workers — cutting the rate well below that of the general Okinawan populace — drunken driving has remained relatively steady in recent years and has kept up with or surpassed the local community, which has had Japan’s highest number of drunken driving crashes for decades.
Experts say the Marine Corps has been doing the right things, but that it is impossible to eliminate the problem — it speaks more to people’s fallibilities than to the failings of command leadership to get troops to follow orders. However, the campaign is a positive step, Okinawan police said, because each drunken-driving incident inflames residents who have become increasingly agitated about the 50,000-strong U.S. presence on the small Pacific island.
“One incident, even a minor one, is an obstructive factor to the cooperative strategic relationship between Japan and the United States; each one of them damages the smooth strategic relations little by little,” said Kazuya Sakamoto, professor of international politics and Japan-U.S. relations at the Graduate School of Law and Politics of Osaka University. “When minor cases are repeated, they will gradually diminish tolerability of the public.”
That is the case on Okinawa.
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