Japan to strengthen safety steps for go-karts on public roads

Kyodo News

Posted at May 20 2017 04:24 PM

TOKYO -- The Japanese government will strengthen safety measures for go-kart services on public roads in a move to prevent accidents involving the vehicles, as such services are gaining popularity among foreign tourists.

The transport ministry is considering new rules to improve the visibility of go-karts, as well as making it mandatory for their drivers to wear seat belts, to tackle accidents caused particularly by foreign travelers.

They are often seen riding go-karts in Tokyo, wearing costumes that look similar to Nintendo Co.'s game characters such as Super Mario, with many videos of the activity uploaded on the internet.

In Tokyo, 12 accidents involving go-karts have been reported since the end of March, of which foreigners were involved in 10, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

Currently, go-kart service providing companies explain about traffic rules in Japan to foreign customers beforehand and can cancel a driving tour, which is usually led by guides, in the event of dangerous driving.

But the ministry is considering urging the service providers, which typically rent out a go-kart for two hours at between 6,000 yen ($54) and 8,000 yen, to give more thorough instructions on safety to users.

In accordance with the road trucking vehicle law, go-karts for public roads -- around 2-meters long and 1-meter wide -- are designated as mopeds. They are equipped with indicators and headlights but the use of seat belts is not compulsory.

Meanwhile, Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Tokyo-based go-kart service provider MariCar Inc. in February, saying the company has infringed its copyright by renting without authorization costumes based on its game characters.

MariCar sought the dismissal of the lawsuit last month.