Pretty much every stretch of highway in Japan has signs to periodically remind you of the importance of staying safe while on the road. “Let’s all drive safely,” “Curves ahead: Watch your speed,” and “If you’re feeling tired, pull over at the rest area and take a break” are all commonly seen common-sense requests that you’ll see.
But one road, National Route 239 in Hokkaido Prefecture, has decided to go with a more startling message, as shown in this photo from Japanese Twitter user and manga author Kamui Baz (@red_baz).
The stark white-on-black text reads: “Transportation from here to the nearest hospital takes two hours.”
To hammer home the point, the text is accompanied by an illustrated heart monitor, which looks to have flatlined, further implying that if you get in an accident out here, you’re quite likely to die.
That may seem incredibly grim, but it’s important to bear in mind where the sign was found. Hokkaido is Japan’s least densely populated prefecture, and while it does have mountains, it also has more stretches of long, straight highway than anywhere else in Japan. Less traffic and fewer curves tempt people to drive as higher speeds, but the lack of congestion also means that you’re likely to be farther away from a big, or even small, city, and thus medical care too.
“This is much more convincing than any standard safe driving slogan,” tweeted Kamui Baz with the photo, which he snapped on a section of the road in the town of Horokanai, heading toward Haboro, which have populations of only about 1,500 and 7,400, respectively. “It really made me think ‘I’ve got to drive safely.’”
Other reactions to the sign online have included:
“Direct route to the afterlife.”
“Two hours…and that’s IF someone can call an ambulance for you right away.”
“Waiting that long is basically the same as getting no medical treatment at all.”
“I’m riding my motorcycle through Hokkaido tomorrow. I’ll make sure to be ride safely.”
Surprisingly, a similar sign has been in use in Tokyo for at least the past two years, though not in the city center. As shown in the photo below, this posted notice about motorcycle accidents in Okutama, a mountainous region at the northwestern tip of Tokyo, asks riders to observe the speed limit of 40 kilometers per hour, slow down on curves, and warns “If you are injured, it will take two hours for you to be transported to the hospital.”
So remember, stay safe when on the road in Japan, no matter which part of Japan that road happens to be in.
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