A man riding on an electric scooter was arrested on suspicion of committing a hit-and-run accident in which a woman was seriously injured, Osaka prefectural police reported on June 4.
Yuki Yamana, 30, who is unemployed and has no fixed address, was arrested on May 24, police said.
Yamana was traveling on an electric scooter on a sidewalk in front of Nankai Namba Station in Osaka’s Chuo Ward at around 4:50 p.m. on May 22 when the accident occurred, according to the prefectural police’s Minami Station.
Yamana hit a 48-year-old woman who lives in Osaka. She was knocked to the ground and suffered a fractured neck. Her injury was not life-threatening.
Yamana, who fled from the scene, has admitted to the charges and told investigators, “I knew I broke a law. If police would have come, it would have taken a long time. So I wanted to get out of trouble and ran away,” police said.
It is rare for a driver of an electric scooter to be arrested for an accident causing injury or death, police said.
Many of the currently available motorized electric scooters are treated in the same manner as motorized bicycles with an engine under 50cc under the Road Traffic Law.
An electric scooter is, in principle, for single-passenger use.
But Yamana was riding it with a female acquaintance in her 20s at the time of the accident.
His scooter did not display a number plate required for an electric scooter to operate on public roads.
Single-ride electric scooters, first popularized in Europe and North America, have become increasingly popular in Japan because they are faster and easier to drive than a regular kick scooter.
Most of the electric scooters on the market can hit a maximum speed of 20 kph.
To operate on public roads, people are required to obtain a driver’s license for a motorized bicycle and a number plate in the municipal government where the driver resides.
Drivers are required to wear a helmet. They are prohibited from traveling on a sidewalk or in a bicycle-only lane.
Under the current regulations, however, there are increasing concerns over the likelihood of electric scooters being involved in minor accidents with automobiles and motorcycles.
At the same time, electric scooters are expected to become a convenient means of transportation and give mobility to elderly people who have difficulty in driving a car or walking long distances.
A panel of experts set up by the National Police Agency released an interim report in April proposing to categorize electric scooters as small low-speed vehicles.
Under the proposed plan, a driver’s license will not be required to operate one, and electric scooters will be allowed to travel in bicycle-only lanes and roadside strips.