Highway safety regulations are in for an overhaul in Japan, and it's all because a bunch of people keep dressing up like Nintendo characters and driving go-karts in the street. Come next year, the popular Mario Kart-themed activity will require seatbelts, helmets and several other new safety requirements.
Because everything cool happens in Japan, there's a really popular tourist attraction that dresses people up as Mario, Peach, Yoshi and the rest of the cast of the Mario Bros. universe, drops everyone into go-karts and then leads them around the congested streets on tours. Over the past year or so, these tours have led to enough injury-related collisions and incidents to gain the attention of Japanese lawmakers. According to The Japan Times, changes have been made to the Road Transport Vehicle Act that should make things safer for all parties involved by next March.
The nice thing here is that nobody is trying to just straight up halt everyone's Mario Kart fun. Still, the changes are going to require quite a few alterations to the way these tours are conducted and the machinery they utilize, which means a heightened cost for those who wish to conduct them.
As the original report points out, the big problem with go-karts is the way they are classified by the transport ministry. They are technically found under two listings, both of which make it easy for these tours to operate without much in the line of safety precautions.
According to the current listing of the Transport Vehicle Act, go-karts are classified as scooters, which means the driver does not have to wear a seat belt in order to operate one. However, they are also categorized as a four-wheel vehicle, which means the drivers don't have to wear helmets. In other words, you have a bunch of tourists hitting the unfamiliar streets of Japan in go-karts, wearing Mario costumes and adhering to fewer safety regulations than most parents would allow in their own backyards.
Rather than go halfway, the transport ministry will be requiring quite a few new regulations be met for these Mario Kart activities to continue in 2018 and beyond. For starters, a reclassification will require both helmets and seat belts for kart drivers. That might mess with the whole cosplay aspect a bit, but better safe than sorry. Also, maybe they can just make helmets themed after the different costumes, right? Anyway, karts will also now require at least one rear-view mirror and a backlight at the highest point of the kart to make them easier to spot in traffic. The steering wheels will need to be made with "soft materials" and a fender must be added to prevent those flowing costumes from getting caught in the wheels.
Sure, all this messes with going as faithful as possible for these Mario Kart reenactments, but hey, safety is important!