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Fukuoka town experiments with new road markings

By KK MIller

Road signs are a dime a dozen out there. The typical driver usually only focuses on what is directly in front of their car, oblivious to almost everything else. Advertisers know though, that it is possible to catch the eye of the driver. They choose strange images or bold words to catch their attention. It really works! How many times can you remember looking at a sign because it was abnormal?

A small town in Fukuoka Prefecture has been taking notes and have come up with their own unusual traffic signs to help slow down cars on some of their dangerous roads.

Japan is known for its narrow roads. Some of them you look at and wonder how two cars can possibly pass each other (answer: very slowly and with both drivers wincing). You may pause in wonderment at the logic behind making the roads that narrow, and then it hits you, pedestrians also have to fit on this poor excuse of a two-way road.

Especially in rural areas of Japan, students from as young as elementary school age have to walk on these narrow streets to get to school. Of course, there are many road signs warning people to “watch your speed” or “be careful of walking students”, but they are so common, some people might ignore them or at least get so used to them that they forget all about them. These safety issues are compounded when the road is particularly straight.

Take this road (photo above, below) in Chukujougunyoshito-machi Suzukuma, Fukuoka, for example. The width is about five meters wide, so two cars are barely able to squeeze past each other. If they do, it leaves no room for any pedestrians. This road lies just off a main prefectural road and thus it’s a commonly used road for cars and students walking to the nearby elementary school. And even though there is lots of traffic, cars will still race down the road as it lacks any curbs and stop signs.

From this month, however, this town in Fukuoka has decided to use new street signs to get cars to slow down and be more cautious. They are using “straight-to-the-point” phrases to catch the drivers’ attention such as “AH! DANGER!” and “Things will jump out at you!” often written in surprisingly casual tones. When confronted with those signs, drivers think, “What? Really? Where, where???” and are forced to use more caution.

Reactions from around the web seem to agree.

“This has a lot of impact!” “It’s nice to see this working.” “How interesting!” “Instead of a ho-hum slogan, this is a lot more effective!” “I like this kind of thing; I wish they would do it in Hokkaido too!” “This idea is really good; it’s bad to have kids suffering from accidents and close calls.”

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Going round in circles: Japan considers introducing roundabouts -- Expert mode “Rainbow Road” bridge found in Japan -- Road hog jams up 10 buses, keeps everyone waiting while he buys lunch

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I heard speed bumps aren`t used in Japan because there is concern that it would slow down emergency vehicle response times.


Meanwhile, the emergencies they are very often responding to are traffic related - there are about 5000 automobile accident fatalities annually in Japan, with 1629 pedestrians and 563 cyclists killed by cars (in 2012). Something needs to be done.

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あ危ねーーー cracks me up XD it's a bit like seeing a manga line on the road XD

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It won't protect 'em from flying finns!

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may be we ought to educate driver better, teach them about awareness and responsibility to the public. this punishment is handed out to Mr or Mrs XXXX for driving down these streets like a nutter especially out side schools. we have this system in the UK it called a drivers awareness course it usually lasts one day, or you can have a fine and points on your licence. but you need the police to enforce this. as for putting funny signs on the floor, well what about the people that can't read or write? or bad eye sight? or who just could not care less?. but good luck with this experiment!

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Exactly. Ironically, it's the blind corner caused by my fence that I am worried about. Everyone sails around our corner like there's no tomorrow. After a near miss last year, when our kids are playing in the street I put bright obstacles in the way, just enough that cars can get around but that they have to slow down and not hit our kids. It's not a main thoroughfare. Recently I notice that our kids are beginning to notice when car comes and they get out of the way, so no more paranoid dad.

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Like already said in above comments, more signs, colored roads and blinking lights aren't gonna do it. In my opinion they should review their usual routine of planting stop signs at every corner. They just redid a crossing in the neighborhood which had a history with crashes, to have a another crash at the same spot a few weeks later. People learn to drive abnormally cautious at driving schools, get their license, see that the taught way of driving isn't going to work, and from there it only gets worse.

Stop signs at crossings where the view is clear should be replaced with give-way signs, like most other countries use. Reduce signs and annoyances (blinking pachinko parlors, advertisements too close to the road). Blinking LED lighting in corners will more likely cause disorientation (or an epileptic seizure) rather than getting you safe through the corner. Second, some crossings definitely need stop signs, but not 20 meters before the crossing where there's no overview. At those crossing a vehicle has to stop twice, but probably won't, which causes confusion to other road users. At places where they use traffic lights they should try to link them up, making it unnecessary to stop at every light. Less annoyances, less aggression, less casualties.

It's not an option for most places in Japan, but they really shouldn't start building properties from 20 cm from the main road, making crossing unnecessarily dangerous. Also, rather than making a road for 2 cars (mirror to mirror) they really should give pedestrians and (separately) cyclist their own space. I'm wouldn't mind paying some tax for those improvements.

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We live across from an Elementary school. We inquired about having the city put speed bumps along the street, but the city said they don't install them anymore because people complained about the noise made by cars passing over them.

So once again, something can be and is proven to work can't be utilized because it causes too much noise from cars passing over them? What about the Pachinko parlors every night, they bother a lot of people as well, NO one is moving a finger to curtail that? Just a bunch of typical excuses, because it might make late on their way to or school or whatever. There are a lot things in Japan it seems bothers people except these crazy drivers. Another thing that is dangerous is when cars come flying around the corner, can't beyond your blind spot, just hit the gas. I can't begin to tell you this year alone how many near misses I almost had because of a car or people on bikes take the curves like its no one else's business and yet, they honk their horns when I slow down in a curve before turning. Japan is a VERY safe country, but I NEVER allow my kids to walk to school, because their are too many crazy drivers in this city.

@scrote @ USNinjapan2

Exactly. Couldn't agree more.

Most of the wanna-be racing car drivers will take no notice whatsoever. They think they look cool revving their engines and racing along like mindless morons. To slow them down speed bumps are needed and make the road even narrower every few hundred meters, alternating the direction of priority traffic each time so that cars are forced to stop.

If they think that marking or painting the streets will stop these crazy drivers, fat chance. People pay 3 grand to obtain a license and what do they get for shelling out so much cash? Bad drivers.

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Technically, the photo shows an example of road marking, not road signs.

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Most of the wanna-be racing car drivers will take no notice whatsoever. They think they look cool revving their engines and racing along like mindless morons. To slow them down speed bumps are needed and make the road even narrower every few hundred meters, alternating the direction of priority traffic each time so that cars are forced to stop.

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We live across from an Elementary school. We inquired about having the city put speed bumps along the street, but the city said they don't install them anymore because people complained about the noise made by cars passing over them. It seems they solve one problem, only to create another one. They did paint words on the street, however. Not as creative as the ones above. Perhaps, "Watch for flying bears" or "beware vicious manholes."

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On my local B road which is full of cameras and speed traps the limit is 40kph.However, the cameras do not record the driver until a speed of over 70kph is reached. Most drivers know this and there is an almost 100% incidence of law breaking 24/7!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Two words, SPEED BUMPS. ("humps" in Canada)

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Please don't ask for more speed bumps. That's all we need for road construction companies to start replacing them along with checking pipes and replacing curbs and other things on the roads.

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I've often wondered why you hardly ever see speed bumps anywhere in Japan despite being the cheapest and most effective way of controlling traffic speed.

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facepalm The problem with the signs is that drivers get used to them, so unless they change the signs every month or so then this is just a temporary fix for a lot of expense. It may even distract drivers from the kids on the side of the road while they're reading the new signs, so I'm not sure it'll actually help.

You know what does work? Eyes. Putting eyes on road signs and around the roads. Several studies have found that drivers get the creepy feeling someone is watching them, perhaps a cop, and tend to reduce speed, become more alert and behave better in terms of obeying the laws, since they have a subconscious feeling there is a cop right around the corner.

Strange? Yes. But it works.

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Way to confuse drivers, Japan has way to many street signs, just look at any road construction it looks like a rave

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I too, live in Fukuoka. I have lived both in the 'countryside' and am living in the city itself. From experience I too, agree that Fukuoka drivers are perhaps the worst in all of Japan (since I both drive and cycle here) - and that is proven yearly by the statistics that state Fukuoka is one of the worst prefectures for driving related accidents and law-breaking. I feel that this (the silly paint in the road) will just be a novelty that will wear off and drivers will continue to drive recklessly.

I have said for years to people in the driving schools and licensing centers that speed bumps are the only way to curb (no pun intended) speeding and bad driving here. I have asked our local neighborhood rep to ask the ward council when they meet to please consider putting speed bumps in our residential zone. If the amount of available police is sorely lacking, at least provide funds to install these bumps or traffic cams.

At times I wish I had spike-strips to lay across the road...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"oblivious to almost everything else. " yep, sounds like the drivers in Japan. oblivious to every other car on the road, oblivious to using their blinker, oblivious to basic road laws like stopping for red lights, yielding to other cars, merging into traffic.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What about turning most small streets and roads into one way streets?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Article saids "And even though there is lots of traffic, cars will still race down the road as it lacks any curbs and stop signs."

If you have alot of school kids walking on the road, the goverment should install more speed bumps to slow the traffic. It's a sure way to slow down the traffic. If you go too fast, it will hit the bottom of your car and nobody wants to damage their cars. The driver will not forget to slowdown in certain locations where speed bumps are installed.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

What is needed is more sensible, not just more road signs. A solid yellow line down the middle of the road means it is against the law to overtake. You see this on straight roads through rice fields where it can be perfectly safe to overtake. Usually, when a broken line, which means it is legal to overtake, appears, it would be absolutely suicidal to do so as there are usually on blind corners.

Regarding narrow roads, I always though this was a non-tariff barrier to discourage the import of American cars back in the days when the only imports seemed to be huge Lincolns driven by yakuza.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Being a Fuluoka resident, problem is, most drivers couldn't care less what a sign says, let alone if other cars, children, elderly and people on bikes think or do, it's all about me, "I'm so cool speeding or I'm in a hurry." The driving culture here is a complete joke! Drivers are aggressively insensitive and selfish. They care MORE about getting to work on time, than safety. I experience this EVERY SINGLE DAY! If they really want people to drive safely there are better ways to solve this problem. They should hand out harsher traffic penalties, put more traffic police out there to catch these people that run red lights, cut people off, tailgate, or speeding too fast on narrow streets. They have nothing to do anyway, so instead of sitting in the Koban all day, put them to good use. In the states, in many residential areas and near schools, we put in very high speed bumps, sometimes 3 or more in a row. There is absolutely NO WAY you can speed up, unless you want to damage your car. But cars are not the only problem, you have school kids that equally don't pay attention and get in the way of the cars, the same with many elderly that think these narrow streets are made for pedestrians, all this perpetuates to the already complex problem of navigating these narrow streets. Wasting more tax payer money isn't going to do Jack to curtail ANY of these problems.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Very clever, I'd like to see more of these kinds of ideas.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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