Children's death sparks outrage and tougher action as Japanese police launch nationwide crackdown When Akio Ogami's sports utility vehicle plummeted 14 metres from a bridge over Hakata Bay in southern Japan last month it was not because of poor visibility or driver error. The Ogami family's vehicle had been hit by a drunk driver. Despite her own injuries, Kaori Ogami frantically dived underwater to try to free her three children, aged one, three and four. She managed to recover her youngest son and daughter, but both died despite efforts to resuscitate them. Her eldest son was later found still strapped in his seat. The response by authorities and a shocked public has been rapid and severe. But the question remained whether a nation that enjoys its tipple really has turned the corner when it comes to drink-driving. 'This all goes back to the way the Japanese look at alcohol,' said Doug Havens, of the Tokyo branch of Alcoholics Anonymous. 'People have been very tolerant of drinking as it was a good way to let off steam and to bond with colleagues in a country where personal connections are complex. 'People have been driving under the influence for years, but now we have had an incident like this there is a feeling that it is no longer socially acceptable - and it has been made worse by the fact that the driver who was drunk was an employee of the local government.' Futoshi Imabayashi, 22, has been charged with breaking the Road Traffic Law but that is likely to be upgraded to dangerous driving resulting in death. Imabayashi, who works with the Fukuoka city government's animal protection centre, told police he drank beer and spirits before the 10.50pm accident. A friend who was also in the car - which had been travelling at an estimated 100km/h - has also been arrested and charged with destroying evidence after getting Imabayashi to drink nearly a litre of water before the police arrived on the scene. Kanagawa prefecture Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa announced this week that employees of his regional government would face sterner punishment from today for being involved in drink-driving incidents. This includes potential dismissal for being in a car with a drunk driver. Similar rules have been introduced in Saga prefecture, where employees face the sack for encouraging someone who will be driving later to drink. And the National Police Agency started a crackdown on drunk drivers on Tuesday, the first time a nationwide campaign has been conducted. While partly a result of the tragedy in Fukuoka, it was also because of concerns that the impact of driving laws introduced in December 2001 were wearing off. The regulations increased the maximum fine to 500,000 yen (HK$33,000) from 100,000 yen and resulted in alcohol-related road accidents falling 34.5 per cent between 2001 and 2003. But in the first seven months of this year, the numbers have begun to creep higher, with 419 drink-driving accidents resulting in death, seven more than the same period last year. Carmakers are also keen to show social responsibility, said Mia Nielsen, a spokeswoman for Nissan, this week announced a scheme to equip vehicles with a mechanism that would prevent a driver starting the engine if it detected alcohol. 'We are always looking at technology to reduce accidents and fatalities, although this system is in the very early stages,' she said.