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Safety steps for foreign drivers introduced amid rise in accidents

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I don't know about the regions mentioned in the story, but I know that during 10 years driving in Nagano, it wasn't the foreigners that I had driving issues with. Every red light runner who nearly plowed into me as a pedestrian, or no signal turner who cut me off on my bicycle in the bike lane, or tailgater who nearly plowed into me when I started to slow down at the yellow light were Japanese.

27 ( +28 / -1 )

Let's look at the data, not the analysis, and test our reading comprehension.

About 1.41 million foreign visitors rented cars before their departure from airport in 2017, eight times higher than 2011 when the figure stood at 179,000, the transport ministry said.

Eight times more users

This sudden leap in the number of international drivers has been linked to a rise in accidents resulting in death or injury, with those primarily caused by foreign visitors up from 25 in 2011 to 123 in 2017, 

Five times more accidents. Doesn't that mean the accident rate is going down? Should we simply accept this claim that people can't read road signs? Should we be talking to 16 year olds in a manner that suggests foreigners are a menace on the roads?

resulting in death or injury

Should these be grouped together? Here is some NGO data. In Japan any accident that involves a hospital visit, even precautionary, is a "taijin" accident. According to these people, there are 430,000 accidents a year. Wow, big scary number for "death or injury"! Spend a moment looking though and you'll see that only 3,500 involve "death". Only 32,000 are "serious injury", which by the Japanese definition can be as little as a broken finger.

http://www.itarda.or.jp/situation_accident.php

So how much importance should be placed on 123 accidents out of 430,000?

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Hilarious when you realise Japanese drivers are some of the worst in the world!

13 ( +15 / -2 )

 if you want to actually get a Japanese drivers license as a resident, they make it nearly impossible to pass without trying multiple times.

I got it on the first try. But first, I spent a lot of time on the many websites that describe the process and the particular things they look for. I took it seriously. Many people just walk in and assume that because they already drive, the test will be a breeze.

Like so many things in Japan, the driving test is filled with quirky and pointless details that must be observed. Study up in advance, be very respectful and humble to the guy testing you, don't show any attitude at all - you will have a good chance of not having to come back again.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

The whole road system needs a lot of work.

The address system is useless. Nobody, including Japanese people understands the chome/banchi system. If and when this information is displayed, it's in small letters and not visible from a moving car. Sure, cell phones have maps, but it's illegal to use a cell phone in a car - even to look at directions. The solution the rest of the planet uses is to give streets names and post the name of the street on the corner. Occasionally this is done. But it's not consistent. It would help to have a house numbering system too.

There is rarely any indication at a junction where the roads go. Large roads, like expressways have them, but there needs to be a sign above the road on smaller roads indicating which road goes where. There are sometimes arrow signs on the lanes, but these are invisible in crowded traffic.

And why, oh why, are there no roundabouts? There is ONE in Okinawa, in Itoman. It's very smooth, people have no problem using it and it keeps traffic moving. I've never seen an accident there. Accidents are almost exclusively at crossroads with traffic lights. Roundabouts are much safer. Studies have proved this time and time again.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I'll lay you a pound to a penny that more accidents are caused every year by elderly Japanese drivers mistaking the gas pedal for the brake than the 123 caused by foreigners.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

@BertieWooster - Sure, cell phones have maps, but it's illegal to use a cell phone in a car - even to look at directions. 

You've misinterpreted the law. It's illegal to hold a cell phon while driving. It's not illegal to use one for navigation if it is in a suitable mount or stand on the dashboard.

I'm wondering if their warning system will include any reference to the reckless Japanese ratbags who disregard red lights, stop signs, pedestrian crossings and speed limits. There may very well be an increase in foreign drivers involved accidents, but are they caused by the foreigners. This point is missing from the article.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Also causing problems in Japanese roads?

Next to no traffic police enforcing laws

-Illegally parked or stopped vehicles on busy downtown roads

-Mo-peds and scooters weaving and lane splitting

-Drivers watching live streaming television on the navigation unit or smart phones

-Pedestrians and people riding mama-charis on smart phones

-Increasing numbers of unchecked elderly drivers

-Self-important taxi drivers and cowboy bus drivers

-Street cars tracks that are shared by vehicular traffic

And why, oh why, are there no roundabouts?

Where have you lived in Japan that has enough space and government funding available to address this issue? Good idea, but there's some other stuff that could come first, like ENFORCING the LAW.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@ShavedNuts: they make it nearly impossible to pass without trying multiple times.

My Canadian buddy just walks in to the police station, shows his Canadian drivers license and takes an eye test and walks out with a drivers license. Many countries have reciprocity with Japan and receive similar treatment. I also heard that a few US states such as Hawaii have reciprocity with Japan. However, I needed to take the gaimenkirikae (transfer my foreign license into Japanese) and passed on the first driving test which is less difficult than what a Japanese takes. I did prepare by taking a 2 hour driving lesson at a driving school in Osaka and he pointed out things such as before you get in the car look under the car, when in the car point to all the mirrors, use the parking break and absolutely stop at train tracks. My Argentinian buddy thought 4000 yen for a lesson was unnecessary and he failed at least 3 times and eventually gave up.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

JenniSchiebel

The article does not give separate info on "fatalities". Unless foreigners in rentacars are driving like maniacs, only a handful of the 123 accidents will involve a death. It is likely to be one or two only.

Bringing attention to non-statistically significant problems involving foreigners, whether residents or tourists, only encourages mistrust where none is justified. It creates xenophobia and racism.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I guess they could make one of those little stickers for front and back that show an image of a Borg from Star Trek, with the words, “Alien On Board”.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Funny that you can come here as a foreigner on vacation and drive with an international permit, which does nothing but validate that you already have a drivers license in your home country, but then if you want to actually get a Japanese drivers license as a resident, they make it nearly impossible to pass without trying multiple times.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

There are too many signs at junctions and crossings here, and you can spend too much time wondering which one is the most important or relevant to the next section of road. At one junction in Yokohama, there ae 11 different signs in the 10 metres leading up to a crossroads: take time to try to read them all and you risk shunting the driver in front or causing a stoppage; ignore one of them, and you risk a parking fine, turning fine or going down a one-way street.

It often seems as if the road planners have never driven a car in their lives!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Reckless, I found out that if you're from the US and you walk into any AAA service shop, you can purchase an international driver's license that can be used for up to a year.

If you come to Japan as a tourist, you can use the AAA license to rent a car legally in Japan without a knowledge test. I have a permanent driver's license now, but in the past I used the international license to rent a car from Toyota.

The fact that I didn't have to take any kind of test and could still drive legally in Japan was kind of surprising! It's interesting that it's a lot harder to get a license to drive if you have a residency card!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My peeve with Japanese drivers..... just stopping on actual busy roads to read a map or answer a phone. Pull off the road! Pull into a parking lot but don't just clog up traffic. I've seen some very dangerous situations when they do it on a road with a bend. You're driving around a corner and all of a sudden some idiot just parked there reading a map or something. With narrow two way roads there is very little room to react. I almost got killed once because of just that. Fix that Please!!!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

So, let's see...

Who is more responsible for accidents??

-- Elderly drivers??

-- Drunk drivers??

-- Young drivers??

-- Foreigners??

Whaddya bet that foreigners was #4 among these options?!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Not 'realise' - 'know!'

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Funny that you can come here as a foreigner on vacation and drive with an international permit, which does nothing but validate that you already have a drivers license in your home country, but then if you want to actually get a Japanese drivers license as a resident, they make it nearly impossible to pass without trying multiple times.

Not true. Japan has agreements with several countries, where you can just walk in, fill out a form and do an interview +eyesight test and you will get your Japanese license without any driving tests and minimal costs.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Before they look at the accidents caused by foreigners, lets look at the statistics of accidents caused by Japanese drivers.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0386111217300468

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japanese drivers are worse than foreign drivers. You don't have masses of "paper drivers" in the states like you do here... And have you ever seen them drive in the snow (in Kanto and Kansai)? Good lord it is frightening/frustrating...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@CruisinJapan: Reckless, I found out that if you're from the US and you walk into any AAA service shop, you can purchase an international driver's license that can be used for up to a year.

That's right. I knew a long term JP resident who kept scratching out the year on his international license to the next year because he did not want to get a JP drivers license. However, he may have been caught when he was pulled over and his alien card dates showed he was a long term resident. So, if you come to Japan from a country without reciprocity and want to drive, enjoy the 1 year grace period with an international license and in that time get your JP drivers license.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I wonder if this safety advisory will include Japan being the land of traffic lights. There are over 200,000 sets of traffic lights in japan, which is double the US. On average, you will go through 30 traffic signals in central Tokyo in 30 minutes of driving. And, depending on the time of day, It may take you one hour to cover 5 kilometers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I know a Japanese guy who bribed officials for a license in Paraguay, used to to obtain a US license, and then used that to obtain a Japanese license (back in the day when no tests were required). So now he has licenses from three countries and has never taken a test in his life.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Every red light runner who nearly plowed into me as a pedestrian, or no signal turner who cut me off on my bicycle in the bike lane, or tailgater who nearly plowed into me when I started to slow down at the yellow light were Japanese.

Nagano has some nice, smooth roads as most of Japan. I think you should buy a motorcycle (above 150cc), life is too short to be stuck on traffic, be ostracized at trains or get stressed over inconsiderate people behind the wheels. 1 twist and you leave all your problems behind.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

You've misinterpreted the law. It's illegal to hold a cell phon while driving. It's not illegal to use one for navigation if it is in a suitable mount or stand on the dashboard.

I was holding it. I don't have a mount for it.

Many people stopped at the lights are watching TV in their cars.

How come it's OK to watch TV, but not OK to hold a phone so you can see the map?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If the Japanese road system is comprehensible, how come I constantly get phone calls from people trying to find our place of business? It's in a large shopping mall, so shouldn't be difficult to find. But with the Banchi/Chome fiasco, they don't have a clue.

How come I spend hours, having got to the general area with Google, Maps.app or Waze only to find a) that the place I'm looking for is nowhere to be found or b) I have to coast the block, looking for the address, a danger to other traffic and pissing the guy behind me off because I'm driving slowly.

Those people who negate this opinion probably don't have to do much driving around. I do and searching for addresses is a right royal pain and a traffic hazard. I wonder how many accidents are caused by people driving around with half an eye on the road looking for the tiny letters "3 Chome" that are obscured by someone's "oshirase" about a missing puppy.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Agree Bertie, it can at times require making a list of land marks with arrows left or right only to get to a general area and not be able to find that pink house on the left, that I have turn right at! Now if was No10 Shinzo ct and I put that in the navi, no problem.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's not drivers so much at fault but pathetic town planning. In my area the roads were obviously designed for rickshaws not cars. No sidewalk, blind corners. The motorways are designed for disaster. Two lanes merging suddenly into one. Regularly travel 67km and pay for an average speed of 30kmh. It's no wonder people watch tv in the car, better than glimpsing the lame mule walking backwards pass you.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It was mentioned already, but ......

"......... up from 25 in 2011 to 123 in 2017 ......."

123, that doesn't sound a lot. Wish they had compared it with the number involving Japanese drivers!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

All rental cars should hAve sensors to prevent right side driving by law.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yup.  Must be all the foreign drivers.  although must say that drivers in PRC and Taiwan are pretty dire in their home countries, let alone when on the "wrong" side of the road.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Compared to other countries there isn’t much road rage here-that’s comforting.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@deadforgood - Japanese drivers are worse than foreign drivers. 

Try driving in Saudi Arabia, Greece, Thailand, Russia... then you'll realise that Japanese drivers are not so bad after all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

were Japanese.

In Japan? Who would have imagined that!

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

Eight times more users ... Five times more accidents. Doesn't that mean the accident rate is going down? 

Yes, but the number of actual fatal accidents has gone up -- because the number of foreign visitors has gone up.

So, the rate is going down -- but the raw frequency is going up.

And the number of fatal accidents involving foreign drivers is going up while the country's population is going down -- and presumably, many of those killed in such accidents are probably Japanese.

It's best to look at this at the human beings involved regarding this issue, not just the statistics.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Not mentioned in this article, but bubbling beneath the surface is the number of unlicensed (even in their own country A) tourists who rent cars presenting a fake international license, especially common in Okinawa, according to a Japanese TV documentary shown last year. Spotting clever fakes ordered from A and supplied postally from country B is not part of the training or remit of rental car company employees, where the police should perhaps be involved. The TV crew interviewed and then followed some of these drivers as they drove out of the airport at the control of a car for the first time in their lives.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I forgot to mention those ECT clots. 2 lanes suddenly 4 or 5 gates, have to slow down then its chaos as everyone tries to get in the 2 lanes out. Cameras above would solve that. Don't even have to slow down. And in my 67km drive there are 4 Ect stops? Trucks Kcars all pushing to get into the 2 lanes out. It's madness.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Good for them to do this.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The whole road system needs a lot of work.

You need to focus a little harder. The road system and address system is easy enough.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@Disillusioned

I'm wondering if their warning system will include any reference to the reckless Japanese ratbags who disregard red lights, stop signs, pedestrian crossings and speed limits. There may very well be an increase in foreign drivers involved accidents, but are they caused by the foreigners. This point is missing from the article.

Its in the article already.... "with those primarily caused by foreign visitors up from 25 in 2011 to 123 in 2017"

@BertieWooster

The address system is useless. Nobody, including Japanese people understands the chome/banchi system. If and when this information is displayed, it's in small letters and not visible from a moving car. Sure, cell phones have maps, but it's illegal to use a cell phone in a car - even to look at directions. The solution the rest of the planet uses is to give streets names and post the name of the street on the corner. Occasionally this is done. But it's not consistent. It would help to have a house numbering system too.

There is rarely any indication at a junction where the roads go. Large roads, like expressways have them, but there needs to be a sign above the road on smaller roads indicating which road goes where. There are sometimes arrow signs on the lanes, but these are invisible in crowded traffic.

And why, oh why, are there no roundabouts? There is ONE in Okinawa, in Itoman. It's very smooth, people have no problem using it and it keeps traffic moving. I've never seen an accident there. Accidents are almost exclusively at crossroads with traffic lights. Roundabouts are much safer. Studies have proved this time and time again.

What do you mean? I for one, find the Japanese system to be incredibly intuitive once you get used to it. Sure if you're going somewhere that you've never been before than it's not exactly useful, but its extremely easy to relate too when giving directions for a place you do know. For example, if someone asks you for directions to a cafe, and you say "Ichibancho 2chome" then they generally know the direction its area it's in. If you just say "Phillip street" then no one knows where the heck that is. I've been living in Japan for 5 years already and I've never once met a Japanese person who can't use the chome system, and never once found it difficult to use.

Again, there doesn't need to be signs except for large junctions, that's because navigation is based on landmarks in Japan. Its extremely intuitive to say "Look for the building with the giant man sign" instead of looking at the street names for all 100 side streets you cross every 3 minutes...

There are no roundabouts because of lack of space... And there are more roundabouts than ONE... The Tohoku region by itself has 47 or so. Most of them in Sendai and Aomori.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

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