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40% of child seats in cars remain unused: police survey

82 Comments

Approximately 40% of child seats mounted in vehicles remain unused, according to a police survey released Wednesday. Child seat use in cars has been mandatory for children under the age of six since April 2000.

The police survey, which was conducted in conjunction with the Japan Automobile Federation, covered 102 locations nationwide. Results showed that as children get older, the use of child seats in cars appears to drop, with only 30% of children five years of age being strapped in.

Police said that, while they realize the seats may be expensive, parents need to make a greater effort to use them because they can mean the difference between life and death for a child in the event of an accident.

© News reports

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Prime blame for this negligence is to be heaped on the unthinking parents, oblivious to reality in their auto-coccoons.

And the police cannot escape culpability either, for their slackness (where I live anyway) in coming down hard on these criminals. And criminals they are - they break the law and endanger those entrusted in their care.

And a few trips to the emergency wards of major hospitals to witness the tragic consequences of such neglect might prove helpful too.

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Yep, plus 80% of people still don't wear seat belts in the back seat, 80% of drivers still use their mobile phones while driving and 90% of children under 13y/o don't wear helmets on bicycles. No mention of any sort of campaign to get these fools to abide by the so-called 'laws' either.

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The last line of the article says it all. I'd like to see the police acting against parents who let their kids bounce around in cars - often in the front of the car. Mum and dad probably wouldn't enjoy seeing their little one shoot through the windscreen in the event of even a minor crash.

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This is both sad and amusing to me, as my friend is in the process of getting his license here, and he got a list of rules of the road that are really important for him to remember... It says right there in print that it's AGAINST THE LAW for people to not wear seatbelts, and also, most importantly, your child being in a child seat! I just find it utterly ridiculous when I'm driving past people and their kids are practically crawling onto the dashboard! Good grief.

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I saw a car (with a child bouncing around on the front seat) pull up at a set of lights next to a police car. The child began waving madly at the policeofficer. If you thought the copper would wind down the window and tell the parent to wake up to themselves and put a seat belt on the child you would be sadly mistaken. The cop smiled and waved back. They both went their merry ways when the light turned green (or blue as the japanese seem to think).

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ratpack-- Seriously?? Sometimes... I just don't know about the law enforcement in this country, haha. I just don't know.

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I just don't understand the stupidity of parents who don't strap their kids into child seats of make them wear seatbelts because 9 times out of 10 the parents themselves are wearing seatbelts so they evidently understand the importance of wearing seatbelts and have a sense of self preservation. It's important they they're properly secured in the vehicle but not their kids. Morons.

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No way. The real number is more like 4%. Ten years since its been mandatory, and it is still largely ignored. But the police can't enforce it if they are sitting on their butts in kobans, or checking bicycle registrations. Just like they ignore the helmets-on-kids-on-bikes laws.

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I saw a car (with a child bouncing around on the front seat)

Me too, but worse still I've seen some kids bouncing up and down on their mum's lap unrestrained on the front seat. It still fascinates me that you need a license to have a dog or catch a fish, but not to breed.

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I have trouble with my kids (better said always in a hurry mother in law and wife) teaching them to put their seatbelt (they are well over 6 now).

Problem is when they get in grandma's car she never checks and would let them go without belts. You know how difficult it gets when there are double standards in educating your kids. It's always easier with the less rules.

So grandma came to our place a week ago and in front of her I reminded my kids to put the belts and stressed out it is law for the back seats not only for the kids. She DIDN'T KNOW it was a law although I'm sure I have told her before too!

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Sadly the only parents that learn from this are those that lose a child as a result of it. Then of course they only learn too late, and it's tragic. One thing the police can help do is ENFORCE it a little more. I mean, I see kids bouncing around and or standing in the passengers seat, leaning against the dash board, or even heads out windows; and if we're seeing that kind of thing daily then certainly the police are seeing it. I just wish they would choose to ACT on it and levy MASSIVE fines. I think 50,000 yen a pop to start would be a useful deterrent in relapse. A second fine gives them a 100,000 slap. Hefty, but it would teach them, and would give some more revenue to the police. Most importantly, it might protect a few more children.

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Sorry to see this going on & so many of the JT readers know about all these things going on. Pity for the children now are extremely important in their early years & it is hard to believe the parents are so neglect.

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I think it'll take a generation for Japan to catch up with other countries. The current generation says "Well, I was never strapped in and I'm still here now" while the police obviously don't care to enforce the law. Japan lags 20 years behind the times..

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Read Superfreakonomics-there is data and research that above two years old a regular seat belt is better that a child seat.

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Yes, I see the little bouncing "gumballs" as I call them everyday. When I asked a few of my local friends about it they said that they never strapped in as a child and that they will not do it to their children. Is this some sort of misguided tradition? I told one friend that it's just like meteors in space...billions of them out there and sooner or later you will get hit.

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I've commented on this before: Mothers on bicycles with children weaving around pedestrians on the sidewalk. Their kids are strapped in but not wearing helmuts. This is a recipe for disaster in the event of a crash. What are they thinking!?

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Used mime and still use from the time my son left the hospital.

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Police need to enfornce the law, people get away with everything and anything here.

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i guess not enough deaths to merrit worry...i think THEY THINK just because they are driving localy to the supermarket (max 30-40km/h) the chances are very slim for serious injury to a child (a broken tooth, arm, just like if a kid fell off his bike). Back home for us, we drive at a min. of 50-60 km/h which raises the chances of serious injury by 5 fold. I just dont undestand how any parent could take ANY kind of risk!

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But as you all know, in Japan, "it's not dangerous to sit in the back seat so you only need seat belt in the front seat"... It's sad and very frustrating, especially since typically the parents are in the front, wearing belts, while their kids are unsecured in the back seat (including middle seat, most dangerous place) - using child seats or not - at LEAST they should wear the belt. If you wear it from you're a kid, it will feel unnatural to not wear it in the future, and it becomes a habit to always wear it.

Japan needs to run some serious TVCM campaigns to increase awareness!

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Some of this kids are uncontrollable anyway. Strapping them down in a car seat is nearly impossible. Kids cry, go bonkers, yell and scream like it's their last day.

I know for fact the best ( EXCUSE IN JAPAN ) reason not to strap the kid to a car seat or seatbelt. Because the kid will go bonkers yelling screaming distracting the driver. Sometimes the kid un-buckles the restraints. And goes nuts in the car throwing toys, particles, snot rags, tissue boxes,tampoons,pencils, books,nintendo ds, telephone book size comic books, and etc.

So the alternative is to keep them calm next to the driver or mother. Not every kid (child) is quiet and has good behavior.

Some kids are annoying meat sacks!!!! Editorial from whiskeysour (skip the fruit pal)

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One problem is that although it is illegal not to have children in child seats, there are no penalties for non-compliance if it's on normal roads. It's only on expressways that drivers will be penalized if passengers aren't wearing seatbelts in the back or children aren't in child seats. I have only once seen a crackdown on the expressway - at the toll booths at the end of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge during Golden Week there were police checking seatbelts, and dozens of cars were getting pulled over. I wish that would happen more often, and on regular roads too.

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If your kids are uncontrollable then you need to teach they proper behavior. Mine tells other to put their seatbealts on and points out other cars it their not wearing theirs.

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Maybe there are no deaths due to not being buckled in in Japan. I do not believe in a police state but do believe in growing towards truth as a culture. If there are children killed because of a lack of being buckled in, it is the responsibility of the authorities to drill this into the population's heads. The Japanese will follow but only as a group. BTW a friend of mine lost a 4th grader due to not being buckled in. Broke her neck on the windshield in a crash that was not too fast. Very sad and it cannot be undone. I also am very concerned about the airbags that can take a childs head off in the front seat in the case of an accident, even at low speeds. I hope the authorities take heed and educate the population to proper safety for children.

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@OneForAll As per the warning of your car maker and car seats instructions, kids and babying should only be in the back seats. NEVER place a car seat in the front seat if it has airbags. The safest place for kids is in the backseats of a car in a car seat, booster seat, or wearing a seatbelt.

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parents need to make a greater effort to use them because they can mean the difference between life and death for a child in the event of an accident.

Education is mandatory, but thats all we can and should do; at the end of the day its the parents child that gets killed not ours.

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docswife,

One problem is that although it is illegal not to have children in child seats, there are no penalties for non-compliance if it's on normal roads.

There is a 1-point-off-your-drivers-license penalty for not strapping your child in. Highways or normal roads, the same. Couple of years ago, they did heavy campaigning to sell new childseats that comply to new standards. Police were active on normal roads at that time!

To comment on the article, I wonder if they did this survey AND caught these people at the same time. If not, what a waste of time and money. We don't need surveys to know what is really obvious.

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kyoken - at the end of the day its the parents child that gets killed not ours.

Yeah, unless the unstrapped-in kid distracts the driver and they plow straight into you, of course.

docswife - One problem is that although it is illegal not to have children in child seats, there are no penalties for non-compliance if it's on normal roads.

Wrong! I bet a Japanese person told you that rubbish.

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instead of catching people on bicycle, police should start catching cars with kids not in their carseats!!

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i went out with a group of people the other day (my kids were with me, too). they didn't want to take many cars so they asked me if i wanted to leave my car at home then get in their car with other people. they alrady had packed the car with people and i said NO because my little one is still 2 years old and needs to be in her carseat. they said that I could just put her on my lap and hold her. I said Er.... No, thank you, but I'll take my car. They looked at me like "why"... (rolling my eyes)

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@Disillusioned: amen. People here need some comon sense.

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Comon sense here? Would love to see that. Also how about some TVCM.

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The laws need to be enforced here, plain and simple. And when unrestrained children DO inevitably get killed in an accident, no matter the level of so-called "grief" or "guilt" by the parent(s), they should swiftly be carted off to the nearest 4 x 8 concrete accomodation for a minimum of 10 years.

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They need to have a celebrity kick off the car seat campaign or else no one would pay attention.

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The police survey, which was conducted in conjunction with the Japan Automobile Federation

Is the JAF a private or public organization? If private, why are the police doing their work for them? If public, why aren't the police arresting those they see breaking the law?

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JAF good info on their site:

http://www.jaf.or.jp/eco-safety/safety/childseat/

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TSRnow, Disillusioned:

The police don't impose penalties for not using seatbelts in back seats on normal roads.

If you can't read Japanese, see:

http://www.ehow.com/about_5427280_seat-belt-laws-japan.html

"Expressway vs. Non-Expressway

The imposition of penalties is limited to violators on expressways---and, again, only the drivers can be penalized. As a result, passengers on tour buses are routinely asked by their driver to fasten their seat belts when the bus is about to enter an expressway. Due to a lack of public support for the regulations, violators on local roads and surface roads receive only warnings."
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@docswife - thanks for the link. JAF have done a good job with that.

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Sorry, Takuma7. Ta to @docswife for the legal info

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What they need to do is to have some REALLY graphic commercials on TV showing what might happen if little taro and tomomi are not strapped into their seats if and when the car they are in has an accident. I know Australia has some really graphic CM's and it makes you take notice.....although it is obvious from the road tolls down under many hoons still don't take notice.

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How about the police doing checks at intersections. When the cars are stopped for a red light, the police walk the line of cars checking for violations. When found, pull them over to the side, stiff fine, mandatory attendance at a child safety school.

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I saw a guy driving his car with one hand,the other hand holding an infant on his lap.The mind boggles.As for the excuse I so often hear,'my kid screams when I try to strap him in',kids scream when you put a coat on them in winter,a hat on in summer,strap them in a pram,pull them away from that enticing electric cord.I am a mother.My role is protect my kids from any 'common sense' type of danger.My three are all under seven.I am their Mother,I am not their best friend.If I think something is dangerous whether they scream or like it or not,I will do what is necessary to make sure they are safe.Not what is convenient or easier for me...because that is what I think it boils down to sometimes reading about the terrible calamities that befall some children here. Hopefully,when my lot are older they will feel like I am their best friend.For now,I am Mother.They are my little treasures.Think we need a few late night TV campaigns depicting the realities of what exactly can happen to a child not strapped in.

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Also depict what happens to an adult whose seat gets pushed forward(towards the windscreen) in a collission because the child is flung from behind against it.

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this think this number is conservative and shows the lack of intelligence among the people here in japan.

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I am SO sick of being laughed at by my Mother in Law, friends and neighbours for diligently strapping all 3 of the kids in every time. They dont scream or object because they are used to it. The only one who doesnt laugh - anymore - is my husband. I showed him some horrible internet pictures of what happens when kids aren`t strapped in and have an accident. He said he was grateful to be married to a foreigner who thinks of these things!!!

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@mediocremummy - typing one handed here but I also have 3 under 7 and second everything you just said!

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When i was in drivers school we saw some graphic moves called "Red Asphalt". i have never driven without a seatbelt and the car doesn't moved until everyone has their seatbelt on (even my mother in-law).

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Like I said before, a lot of Japanese lack comon sense. Not sure if a few commercials will help. It really needs to be enforced by the keisatsu.

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And yet there are less traffic deaths in this country than in other countries where the seat-belt and child-seat laws are better enforced... http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_mot_veh_dea-health-motor-vehicle-deaths

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Apologies to TSRnow and Disillusioned - I got confused between the policy on use of seatbelts in rear seats and that on child seats. You're right, it is one point off the driver's license for not using a child seat, even on ordinary roads. (No fine, unlike most other traffic violations.)

I do think, though, there's a de facto policy in place similar to that for seatbelt use. It's very rare for drivers to be penalized for not using child seats - in fact, I have a policeman friend who never uses them for his own three kids. I guess there may be local campaigns now and then, when local forces need to bump up their statistics.

Anyway, sorry for the misinformation.

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@ Mediocremummy - dude, I live in Gunma and I've seen that so many times around here when I'm on my bike. One hand on the wheel and the other holding a not even one year old baby. That is insane. I understand that like the police says in the article "seats may be expensive", common sense would tell me that it might be extremely dangerous to hold my baby while I'm driving. And common sense also tells me that my baby might go flying like superman if I have some kind of accident.

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PenelopePitstop,

And yet there are less traffic deaths in this country than in other countries where the seat-belt and child-seat laws are better enforced

Are you suggesting we do it the Japanese way, then, in all countries?

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Who needs seats when the kids are standing in the front with their noses on the windshield.

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Education, education, education! show these people what happens to unrestrained kids in cars. Police, enforce the law! impose major fines for driving with an unrestraind child in the car. Hmm is a large fine a deterent or should it be the thought that you may kill your kids? I see unrestrained children in cars every day, surely the police see this too?

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fishy at 12:12 PM JST - 10th June, wrote: "I said Er.... No, thank you, but I'll take my car".

Lets be braver about stating firmly, that we KNOW it to be very dangerous to do as was suggested - ie to 'hold the child in your lap' with no child seat. No more 'Ers' or expressions of any shades of doubt at all! A polite but positive, absolutely clear refusal - to place one's child in the dangerous position of travelling without being securely belted into his/her car seat.

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Japan's 安全第一 at it's best again. Don't count on the law or police. That simply doesn't work in Japan. But as other have mentioned, even the most stubborn people get convinced when you show them some pictures or videos of what happens in case of an accident.

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And yet there are less traffic deaths in this country than in other countries where the seat-belt and child-seat laws are better enforced

Are you suggesting we do it the Japanese way, then, in all countries?

Well there's obviously something we can learn from the Japanese way... maybe not pertaining to child seats though.

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The police do very little to support such laws. I have personally told people how dangerous it is to have kids bouncing around. Kira, we MUST be married to the same guy because my husband comments how happy he is to be married to someone with a clue. He now tells people when it sees it - will role down the window and tell them the kids should be strapped in. I just think of all the money the police could make if they gave tickets for a) kids not strapped in b) adults not strapped in c) not stopping at stop signs/crosswalks (that would be in the MILLIONS!) and speeding. But yet, I have never seen anyone pulled over for the above in my 10 years in Japan.

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@borscht : No!!!!! After driving on the highway and seeing cars speeding in the emergency lane, motorcycles driving the wrong way in the emergency lanes, guys driving while reading a manga or watching tv, I'm totally amazed at how low the figures are for deadly accidents and! Although maybe the statistics are false... statistics are easily manipulated...

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@tmarie - I would say so except for the fact that my husband would never call anyone out for not using childseats - he is way too non-confrontational!

@penelopepitstop - I don`t know whether the stats are true or not but I find most stats that come out of Japan kind of hard to believe.

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This is a wonderful advert for seat belts in the UK:

http://embracethis.co.uk/

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It really amazes me to see many safety unconscious people in Japan. It is really a suicide when you see moms driving carrying their babies on the lap!! Old habits are hard to break but it is time to enforce safety than being sorry later.

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And yet there are less traffic deaths in this country than in other countries where the seat-belt and child-seat laws are better enforced...

Yes, and the rate could be even lower if they used child seats.

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**#

kirakira25 at 03:18 PM JST - 10th June

I am SO sick of being laughed at by my Mother in Law, friends and neighbours for diligently strapping all 3 of the kids in every time. They dont scream or object because they are used to it. The only one who doesnt laugh - anymore - is my husband. I showed him some horrible internet pictures of what happens when kids aren`t strapped in and have an accident. He said he was grateful to be married to a foreigner who thinks of these things!!!**

I second your whole post!

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"Although maybe the statistics are false... statistics are easily manipulated..."

I agree. We should switch this discussion away from data and statistics and focus instead on opinion, hearsay, and anecdote. They will lead us to a rational assessment we can all agree on. Besides, this way, we don't have to trust the Japanese to collect data correctly, which is a BIG PLUS!

But seriously, now. I think we can all agree that buckling up kids (add quibbling and qualification here) is the safest thing to do if you have kids and restraints in a vehicle. Driving more slowly and defensively on roads where other people are doing so also, well that helps matters as well. If I had to choose one or the other, I would take the latter. Wudn u?

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This is an interesting topic. Japanese are on the whole, quite sensible. I mean, windows on trains open up tothe extent yuo can jump out of them, but there are no signs that say "don't stick your head or limbs out" - why, most people know it is daft to do it. In the UK opening windows on trains are all but banned (more like slits now) and STILL have the warning sticker. Similarly, there is no insulting text on car door mirrors noting that objects in the mirror mmay be closer thane they appear - no kidding? MacDonald cups? don't get me started. Despite all that, I see a huge volume of people endangering their own (and their families) safety by refusing to strap in kids, and in some cases themselves. Dogs too. Crazy.

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Penelope Pitstop: "And yet there are less traffic deaths in this country than in other countries where the seat-belt and child-seat laws are better enforced."

True, but so many people in Japan use public transit. If you compared the number of deaths per kilometre travelled by private vehicle (and adjusted for the fact that the average speed -- outside of expressways -- is about 30 km/h), Japan would probably be at or near the top.

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What was the smaple size of this survey. Did police collect the fine from offenders? What about the dogs(Wan-chan) in Japan? Are they have special rights to show their head outside the car's window.

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Gyouza, I wonder about that as I have never seen a sticker on things like hairdryers and telling me not to use one in the bathtub in other countries.

Kira, he says things now because if he doesn't, he knows I will rant on and on about it. Better to say something to shut me up!!

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As pointed out, the chance of dying in a car accident in Japan are over ten times that in other industrialized countries. But fewer people die simply because fewer people drive. Some people are confused between these two - it's like saying China has a higher rate of obesity than the US because there are more fat people in China (true).

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it doesn't matter what the survey says use some common sense, wear you seat belts and use your car seats. Also the speed limits are a lot lower here then in other places.

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"As pointed out, the chance of dying in a car accident in Japan are over ten times that in other industrialized countries."

This is an extremely vague statement that is unlikely to be true unless it it heavily qualified and supported.

What it seems to say is that FOR EACH AUTO ACCIDENT, JAPAN HAS MORE FATALITIES. That seems EXTREMELY unlikely, but it is probably not what you wanted to assert. Try again. You might also want to clarify what you mean by INDUSTRIALIZED. India? I think India has more manufacturing jobs than the US. The US? also known as highway carnage-land? Or France, with its Citroens and Deux-chevaux?

Just off the cuff, I will say that I have seen numerous fatality accidents in the US and have had relatives there killed in auto accidents. I have never once even seen one in Japan, although I have seen perhaps 30 accidents, some roll-overs and head-ons into trees and walls, etc. Moving vehicles of great mass at high velocities creates carnage, and Japan does not do that, in general.

In terms of consciousness also, I have heard people in the US talk about how they like bigger cars because they want a steel cage around them in case of an accident. I have never heard a Japanese person say they want to buy a certain vehicle based on its great mass. If Japan's roads were truly meat grinders, wouldn't people be more concerned?

I know this debate has been continuing on this site for about a decade now. Some people are inclined to believe that Japan lies and skews, and that the reality in Japan is so much worse than we are "led to believe." I am from Missouri, so show me.

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Then there are those kids who died because they were strapped in. That was when a government employee drunkenly rear ended their family's vehicle and it went off the bridge. With speed limits like they are there is a little chance that these things happen to kids. What are the statistics these days of child fatalities? I think more that adolescents are more at risk due to their own egos.

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docswife, thank you for saving me the hassle of searching for a good website that explains Japanese Traffic laws... ;)

You are right, even though there is a law, J-police are not too enthusiastic to enforce them. The Japanese know that only in "Traffic Safety Week" or whatever it's called, will they find police lying in wait for their victims.

For majority of the drivers, getting caught is just bad luck, and they think "But every else is doing it too!"

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Oops, typo

every else --> everybody else

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Just to liven this up, the craziest thing I ever heard about this child seat issue was during a lecture getting my driver's license. They were explaining new laws, accident trends, etc.

Anyway, I was told by an official in one of these lectures.... In fact our room of about 60 people all heard it: if a vehicle must hold say, 5 people and a child seat would lessen the capacity to 4 people, you can skip the child seat and take 5 passengers legally. In other words, the child seat is optional IF the car is full. I couldn't believe my ears, so I asked for clarification. Apparently it is so. If a child seat forces you to forego the trip or take two cars, you get a pass.

Anybody else heard this or know this for sure? It did not really apply to me, but I was stunned. It might also explain why the law is not enforced so often. Unfortunately, it also explains 5 kids jumping around in a Wagon R getting away scot-free while the soccer mom and Taro jr. in a SUV get a ticket.

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Eureka! I just figured it out. Japanese parents don't buckle their kids in their cars because they have those asinine "Child/Baby In Car" stickers on their rear windows which as we all know eliminates the risk of an accident. After all as long as they've got those stickers on their cars it's everyone else's responsibility to ensure that their kids are safe from injuries caused by unavoidable accidents. Right?

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Klein2, it seems crazy, but yes there are a couple of ways to get around this child seat law. They are called exemptions. For your information, I made a list.

You don't have to use a child seat when;

The vehicle is not fit for a child seat. (Structure) Full capacity does not allow space for a child seat. (As you mentioned. Space for one adult can fit two children when counting capacity.) If the child cannot use the childseat due to any injuries or sickness. If the child cannot use the childseat due to obesity or other physical reasons. When feeding (breast-feeding) the child or changing diapers. When riding on a bus or taxi. When in emergency. (Taking the child to a hospital, when taking a stray child to the police station)

So this tells you most of these kids running about in vans are not exempted. Well, at least not all of them.

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USNinJapan2, Rear stickers are placed in the rear window to advise following drivers that there are children in the car, hopefully deterring at least some drivers from tailgating, perhaps. Seatbelts/air bags are there to protect the driver and occupants from front end collisions! I prefer to use both.

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I wish the 'child in car' sticker would discourage people from tailgaiting. Seems here in Aichi tailgaiting is the prefectural passtime. Don't even get me started on the obaachan I saw driving a car with her grandbaby in an ombu sling on her back!! Seatbelt? What's that?

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Come on get some common sense! You don't breast-feed or changing diapers when the car is moving. Even when taking you kid to the hospital emergency or not USE the car seat come on! Wear your seat belts and use the car seats or don't drive! Lots of people here lack basic common sense!

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just goes to show that 40% can afford a car-seat just for looks, and not even use it

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