Senior failed license test six times and decided to license himself.
On 15 May, a passenger car was driving through Higashimurayama, Tokyo when it was suddenly struck from behind by a Harley Davidson three-wheeled motorcycle. However, rather than following the proper procedure and notifying the police of the collision, the motorized tricycle sped off.
Luckily, no one was injured in the crash but it left a dent in the car that cost 400,000 yen (US$2,900) to fix. So, the owners of the automobile reported it to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police who launched an investigation into the hit and run and used the car’s dash cam to identify the vehicle.
It wasn’t until about two months later that the same silver bike was spotted by a patrol car in Kiyose, Tokyo. The officer told the suspect to pull over, but he sped off down a narrow path that the car couldn’t enter. One of the officers jumped out of the car and followed on foot, eventually catching up to the motorcycle at a dead end.
When the police asked to see the biker’s license, he told him that he left it at home. However, upon further questioning the rider, 69-year-old Tatsuo Matsumoto, finally broke down and admitted that he never had one, and was arrested for driving without a license.
▼ News report on Matsumoto’s arrest
Further investigation revealed that Matsumoto had been operating motorbikes without a license for over 50 years. He explained that he had attempted to get a motorcycle license six times but couldn’t pass the written test issued by the police, so he gave up near the end of the Showa period, which is around the late 1980s.
Despite that, he had been riding motorcycles since he was 17 years old and was taught by a senior classmate when he entered high school. He had been caught and fined once for driving without a license around that time, and then once again when he was in his 50s.
The three-wheeled Harley was purchased four years ago from a dealer in Saitama Prefecture and had about 30,000 kilometers (18,000 miles) on it. He told police that he rode it everyday except during bad weather and that he gave the dealer the same line about “forgetting” his license when he purchased the bike for about six million yen ($44,000).
In Japan, a three-wheeled motorcycle can be driven with a regular car class driver’s license rather than a motorcycle license, but Matsumoto had no license to speak of, so it’s a moot point in his case. Although the biker’s actions were brash and reckless, many readers of the news were more surprised that he managed to slip through so many holes in the system to get as far as he did.
“How did he get past the safety inspections?”
“I think it’s a big problem that you can buy a vehicle without showing a license.”
“There should be stricter penalties for driving without a license.”
”I realize this is my own prejudice, but…really? A three-wheeled Harley?”
“If he admitted to driving almost every day without a license, shouldn’t he be fined for each day?”
“I think driver’s licenses should have a chip inside so that the vehicle won’t start unless a valid one is in range.”
“I question his memory and intelligence if he fails the test six times.”
As someone who’s taken the police tests, I can confirm that they are quite hard and I wouldn’t disparage anyone for failing six times. Passing It requires a level of knowledge far beyond what the average driver retains. Still, the test is not terribly expensive at under 3,000 yen ($22) a pop, so even if he took it and failed dozens of times, he probably still would have come out ahead financially compared with the fines he’s received. The amount of the fine issued in this instance wasn’t reported but by law can go as high as 500,000 yen ($3,600). I’d have to assume that given the extensiveness of his illegal riding, he’d have gotten something towards the higher end.
Then there’s the likely lawsuit and possible criminal charges associated with the hit and run to look forward to, so this is all amounting to a very costly lifestyle choice. At least he’ll be getting his trike returned, and selling that would go along way to paying everything off.