MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The Iwakuni City Police Department held a free driving class for Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni residents in Iwakuni City, Japan, June 28, 2017.
Twenty MCAS Iwakuni drivers with Status of Forces Agreement certifications were invited to take part in the short, educational workshop. They learned traffic rules and manners, and they drove in a live course with Japanese instructors and translators.
“I believe that adapting to foreign cultures, customs and laws is very difficult, including when you’re driving a car,” said Katsuyoshi Abe, chief of Iwakuni City Police Department. “This event is a great opportunity to further the knowledge of SOFA holders who are driving here. I expect this school will be effective for (station residents) and the citizens of Iwakuni city.”
Abe is regularly informed about traffic accidents and violations by station residents. He says he believes the biggest causes are the differences between Japanese and American traffic rules and manners.
“I think (station residents) have some anxiety while driving in Japan,” said Abe. “But I also know they are very conscious towards traffic safety.”
Toshiharu Fukunaga, traffic division chief with the Iwakuni City Police department, highlighted three primary safety checks the stations residents need to keep in mind to prevent unnecessary accidents: turning right on traffic lights, making left turns and backing out of parking spaces.
“There have been quite a few accidents in parking lots by reversing cars,” said Fukunaga. “To prevent this, check around the car and then back out at slow a speed.”
When making left turns, check the left rear side mirror, move to the furthest left lane and then turn. Use the mirrors but also look over both shoulders.
To practice the right turn, an empty car was placed on the right-turn lane at the intersection of the course. In order to avoid a rear-end collision, drivers going straight were reminded to be mindful of cars in front of them who might be stopping to turn right,.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Samuel Bradley, a station resident, said that although the Provost Marshal’s Office and the SOFA classes do a good job teaching the most common rules, this course may have some more obscure things that Americans don’t often think about.
“I’m definitely going to be more conscious of checking for bikes and motorcycles and checking my mirrors,” said Bradley. “That’s one of the things the instructors stress, checking over your right and left shoulders for bikes and mopeds that are always on the streets.”
He added that the course is more than just a way for the Japanese police department to teach Americans how to drive. It’s an opportunity for station residents to show their host nation the respect they hold for their customs and laws, and that they are willing to improve whatever deficiencies they have.
“It shows that we’re giving an effort to actually learn about their culture and their laws, instead of just coming over here and taking advantage of their hospitality,” said Bradley. “This course helps keep us out of trouble with the Japanese police department, and that’s always a good thing to avoid.”
The station residents were thanked for their participation and asked to spread the information they learned during the course to their friends and family.
The Iwakuni City Police Department intends to make the driving class the first of many and encourages large participation.