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Car crash claims 3 lives in Asahikawa

13 Comments

Three people, including a high school student, were killed Wednesday morning when a car collided with an RV in Asahikawa, Hokkaido.

According to police, the accident occurred at a T-junction at around 8:20 a.m. TV Asahi quoted police as saying that the RV, driven by Yayoi Nagaoka, 75, was turning right off the highway, when it hit a car coming from the opposite direction, driven by Yuto Fujino, 25, TV Asahi reported. Fujino's sister Rina, 21, was in the front passenger seat.

The impact of the collision sent the two vehicles careening into a student who was riding his bike to school. Police said the student, Kentaro Kato, 17, who was waiting for the traffic light, was killed, as well as the Fujino siblings, after their car smashed into a traffic light pole.

Nagaoka, who was not injured, was quoted by police as saying the light was green when she turned right.

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The Skyline driven by Fujino was torn apart by the force of the collision, with the Recaro racing-style driver's seat clearly visible.

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And a 75 year old remains unscathed after killing three people doesn't come close. Didn't an 82 year old kill some people this morning as well?

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Every year, about 5000 people die in car accidents in Japan. In 2012, 1629 pedestrians and 563 people riding on bicycles were killed by automobiles. Car crashes are the direct cause of death for 1.2 million people worldwide annually. They are the leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 29.

If anything else was causing such destruction on a regular basis we would do something about it. It may require a paradigm shift in the way we think and live, but the only solution is for cities to start thinking about ways to disincentivize and dissuade automobile ownership through taxes, road diets , lower speed limits, speed bumps and more car free streets.

It`s way past time to end our irrational love affair with the automobile.

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yokohamarides, I agree that the unquestioning love affair with cars need to end, but Japan isn't horrible in that regard, it's one of the places in the world that favor the least cars, giving them just the minimum space they need and no more. On arterials, often sidewalks are as large or larger than lanes for cars. As a result, Japanese use cars less than residents of most other developed countries and Japan roads and streets are some of the safest in the world.

In North America, your criticism would be more appropriate.

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kchoze: Not sure which Japan you live in, but it's not this one if you think 'often sidewalks are as large or larger than lanes for cars'. I walk or ride my bicycle to work every day, and when walking I find often that the literally 30 cm sidewalk beside the faded white line painted on a road that should be only one way but is two is blocked by utility poles so that I have to walk onto the main part of the street, by illegally parked cars with or without hazard lights flashing, and bicycles being ridden all over the place by the same persons.

Cars are given priority because of the trade wars with the US back in the 70s and 80s, where everything else took a sidewalk to sales of cars. Most police don't know current bicycle laws, and don't enforce most traffic laws because it would be 'unpopular'. Just look at the recently introduced law where people other than the driver, ie. in the back seat, also have to wear seat belts. Or even the driver him/herself if caught not wearing one -- the penalty? If on the freeway a point lost on the license and a fine. If on city roads a point lost and that's it, because the government decided it would vote against them if they were more strict.

But here we have another old person who should not be driving who has killed three people whose total ages combined don't come close to her own. Now, it's possible she's right and the light was green when she careened into the other vehicle, but as the only survivor of this tragedy there's really nothing to prove it.

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smithinjapan, the streets I've seen in Japan tend to fall under two categories:

Residential streets which have generally no sidewalk at all, just a painted line, if that. From what I have seen, pedestrians and cyclists disregard that line frequently and assume the entire street is theirs (as it should be), and since traffic is low and extremely slow, they feel safe everywhere on it. If you keep to the painted line... stop thinking the street is lava, seriously, the line is a guideline, not an impassible barrier. And it's good that these narrow streets are 2-ways, it forces car drivers to be wary not only of pedestrians and cyclists, but of cars coming the opposite way. This friction forces them to slow down and be careful. Drivers on wide streets drive fast and are not careful, which is why people are much more likely to die on American wide streets than Japanese narrow streets.

Arterial streets which have huge sidewalks, with poles, trees and fences located only at the extreme border between the road and the sidewalk, leaving a good 2,5 to 3 meters of uncluttered sidewalk.

What I've realized over time is that sidewalks are often not used to offer safety for pedestrians, but to get pedestrians out of the way of cars. When pedestrians and cars share the same narrow roadway, cars are forced to slow down and respect pedestrians, and the street is just as safe, if not safer, than if both had their separate roadways. This is true in Japan and everywhere else in the world.

Anyway, as to the accident itself, I've seen images of the crash, 3RENSHO's comment is accurate. The car was a Skyline and the driver's seat was replaced with a racer's seat. We don't know if the Skyline's driver was speeding or if the old driver turned on a red, but seeing the wreck, the Skyline seemed to be traveling at high speed and seems to have just clipped the lady's SUV then ended up on an utility pole. The investigation should reveal at least at what speed everyone was driving. In any case, the student biking on the side of the road was killed in a freak accident on which he had no control.

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Nagaoka, who was not injured, was quoted by police as saying the light was green when she turned right

Unless I'm not understanding this correctly, even if the light was green, she should have yielded to oncoming traffic, no? In North America, we have daylight running lights (lights that are always on during the day, slightly dimmer than night time lights, but enough for someone to see you coming from a distance). I really think Japan should entertain this idea or make it madatory.

@smith: I agree with kchoze. In Japan, it is extremely difficult to own and drive a car. You can't drive until you're 18, you have driving school which runs 300 to 400,000 yen, you have to pay for safety certifications every year or 2 years, you have to pay for monthly parking if you don't live in a house (which many people don't), the tolls are ridiculously expensive, gas is expensive, insurance is expensive.... add to that, the extensive public transport systems they have and overhead and underground crosswalks.... it seems to me they go to great lengths to dissuade people to own a car. But then again, maybe our different points of view depend on where in Japan we live?

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kchoze: "What I've realized over time is that sidewalks are often not used to offer safety for pedestrians, but to get pedestrians out of the way of cars."

Glad you can admit the priority. Heaven forbid those pedestrians block your car!

Tahoochi: "But then again, maybe our different points of view depend on where in Japan we live?"

Ask the dead, in this case a kid merely riding his bike down the street, then get back to me.

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smithinjapanJun. 19, 2014 - 03:03AM JST

Ask the dead, in this case a kid merely riding his bike down the street, then get back to me.

So you have no idea of the circumstances at the scene of the accident, yet you try to "prove me wrong" by telling me to talk to someone who was just killed in an accident and in the process, try to make me feel guilty for being insensitive because somehow, what I posted supposedly doesn't substantiate what happened in this accident?

The kid wasn't riding his bike. The article states he was waiting for the traffic light. The Skyline was torn apart, which means there was significant speed involved, so there's no telling if he would have survived or not even if he had a 10m. sidewalk.

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"Glad you can admit the priority. Heaven forbid those pedestrians block your car!"

I don't understand your point, is this a jab at me? Trust me, I'm no hardened car driver, I can go 1 or 2 months without driving, I much prefer walking and biking. I just don't think sidewalks are essential everywhere, I feel safer walking on narrow Japanese residential streets where I walk in the path of cars than on sidewalks on the side of wide, fast streets in Canada.

As to the kid that died on his bike, it's really a tragedy, but one I fail to see how it could have been avoided by road design, considering how one car went off the road so fast and wrapped itself around a traffic light pole. No matter how large the sidewalk or the presence of cycle paths, a fast moving car going off the street is going to kill anyone in its way.

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I too have seen the photos and read how the SUV driver has been arrested for causing the accident. While that may be true from a legal perspective, I can say that there is no way that the speed of the Skyline was not a contributing factor.

The car (a race car) was wrapped around the pole it hit. That requires a speed well in excess of the law or common sense.

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Smith,

But here we have another old person who should not be driving

Geez. What exactly is this mad-on you seem to have against anyone over the legal retirement age? You have some very outdated notions of the functioning capacity of a human being in their 70s or even 80s. 75 is not so old as to impair one's ability to drive. Besides that, there's no indication the woman's age had anything to do with the accident. Not that that stopped you from a rather rude indicment of the woman based on nothing more than her reported age.

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Why don't we have traffic light cameras here?

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