People dressing up as characters from the Mario Kart video games will have to wear seat-belts due to a spike in road accidents that resulted in injuries, the Japan Times reports. Road operators will also be have to update their motorised carts to improve safety standards.
The transport ministry has decided to revise the Road Transport Vehicle Act by next March, with a view toward strengthening safety regulations for go-karts.
The services, which let tourists cosplay as Mario and other characters from the iconic video game drive through the oft-congested streets of the capital, have become a massive trend among foreigners visiting Tokyo.
The decision was made following the concerns over a traffic loophole that has permitted go-kart drivers to roam the streets without seat-belts and helmets. Go-karts are classified as scooters under the Transport Vehicle Act, exempting them from the seat-belt rule. They are also categorised as four-wheel cars under the Road Traffic Law, which allows drivers to cruise roads without having to wear helmets.
“It’s dangerous as other cars cannot see them because of their low height,” a ministry official said.
Asahi TV says that go-karts should be fitted with mudguards to prevent the costumes from getting caught in the wheels.
According to Sankei Shimbun, the go-karts have 50cc engines and are capable of reaching speeds of up to 60 kmh (37 mph).
Although there are less than 1,000 go-karts on the roads in Tokyo, they are mostly owned by hire companies who rent them to foreign tourists.
Drivers pay up to 8,000 yen ($71; £53) for a two-hour tour on Tokyo’s streets, and need a valid driver’s licence to get behind the wheel.
Local media have highlighted that many tourists don’t know much about Japanese road laws, and for some, it’s their first experience ever of driving on the left side of the road.
Under the new regulations, go-karts have to be at least 1 metre high, and the driving wheel must be made with soft material to prevent injury in case of an accident.
The decision comes after Kyoto-based Nintendo filed a lawsuit in February against MariCar, one of the go-kart rental businesses in Tokyo, for letting tourists wear unauthorised Nintendo character costumes.
Nintendo’s globally adored franchise has sold over half a billion units since the first game’s release in 1981.