Japan Today

Gov't, NPA look at ways to improve road safety for children


The Education Ministry and National Police Agency said Friday they will look at ways to improve road safety for school children after three accidents claimed two lives and injured 10 others this week.

On Friday, a minivan crashed into a group of children waiting for a school bus in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, killing a 6-year-old boy. The driver, a 20-year-old part-time worker, was arrested and charged with negligent driving resulting in death. He told police he lost concentration.

Also on Friday, a minivan hit four children at a pedestrian crossing in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, seriously injuring two of them.

Last Monday, a seven-year-old girl and a pregnant 26-year-old woman were killed when the minicar hit a group of elementary school children in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture. Eight other children were seriously hurt when the car, driven by an 18-year-old male without a license, crashed into them.

In all three accidents, the roads were narrow and there were no sidewalks, nor were there any guardrails.

An NPA official told a news conference in Tokyo that in 2011, 11 children were killed and 2,474 children injured by cars while walking to and from school, Fuji TV reported. So far this year, four children have been killed by cars.

The official said the NPA is looking at reducing the speed limit on roads less than six meters wide, which are used by children to go to and from school, to 40 kilometers per hour. It is also considering placing speed bumps on more roads.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Hirofumi Hirano said that the government will work more closely with local education boards and schools to work out ways to protect children. He said schools need to map out safer routes for children walking to and from school.

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Eventually they'll force drivers to accept autonomous drive technology in their vehicles, even though most drivers are uncomfortable with that concept.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I almost got hit by a car yesterday near the elementary school. The pedestrian walk light is green and as I cross the line, a car suddenly made a left turn without slowing down and the car made a screech and stop for less than a foot from where I was. And the driver never apologized as if he was perplexed that I was in front of him and slowed down his business. Well as I got to the other side, i then realized that the drivers never slow down when they make a left turn even though they don't see a thing because there is no mirror to show somebody is crossing and there is a big electric pole blocking their view when they turn left but there is a very big sign CHILDREN CROSSING SCHOOL ZONE. I think its just a matter of time before somebody get badly hurt...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Sidewalks would be nice. Police who actually ENFORCE traffic laws other than seat belt violtions, instead of standing on street corners blowing whistles. A driving culture that begins to respect pedestrian crosswalks, and also enforcement again. A ban on TVs/DVD players that operate when the car is moving.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"In all three accidents, the roads were narrow and there were no sidewalks, nor were there any guardrails."

This is so normal up here, and the drivers are nuts! There is a tiny, narrow road, more like an alley, here, that all the neighborhood kids have to use as a school route. And the commuting drivers also use it to shirt the main road and cut maybe 3-5 minutes off their commuting time. They speed along that road so fast, within inches of all the kids, assuming that 6-year-olds can concentrate every second. It is truly an accident waiting to happen.

We went to city hall, asking that a school kids present sign be erected and/or a speed bump be installed. They answered that we would have to get the signed consent of every resident in the neighborhood, and by the time we could do that, IF we could do that, most of the kids would be graduated from high school. I was truly disgusted by the government response to this dangerous situation. Activism in Japan is only see as cranks out to cause trouble.

And, as for the police helping, it seems the only thing the traffic police check is seat belt usage. There are regular police checkpoints for seatbelts, right next to traffic lights where 90% of the drivers are red light jumpers. Priorities are so misplaced.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Cars and taxis going 30-40 miles per hour (48-64 km/h) on narrow streets will always be a recipe for disaster.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Put lots of speed bumps on streets that are too narrow to have sidewalks.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

yes, let`s LOOK at ways. the roads here are insane and the drivers are worse.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

People cry loudly about the dangers of nuclear power plants and say to take away all of them. But they don't say reduce numbers of cars though so many people die in the accidents every year. They are as dangerous as nuclear power plants or even more. It may hit you tomorrow.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These intersections need cameras. The red light cameras that automatically snap pictures of red-light runners are, indeed, effective traffic tools. Many traffic fatalities are related to speed and running red lights. Cameras are effective at improving safety overall. In addition to deterring would-be red-light runners, the cameras will make drivers to respect more red lights even when there’s no camera around. They can place cameras at heavily traveled intersections. The number of crashes will fall after the cameras are installed. Red-light camera system can be paid entirely from violations. They might generate money for local governments.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am surprised the little girl who fell off her bicycle and crushed by a truck was not mentioned. In fact, I think she might have been killed by the new rule of no bicycles on the sidewalk. But the NPA would not want to talk about that, would they?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Okay, many of us come from countries where there are hardly any roads that children walk on with sidewalks (or footpaths if you prefer).

So, when I see the narrow roads without sidewalks, and guardrails that children (and adults) have to walk on, I always think that it's incredibly dangerous and that cars and people would have to be watching carefully all the time. Same with bikes.

So....why aren't people more careful? That's the drivers, the bike riders, and the people walking. Some roads are too narrow to have guard rails, so the simple answer is for drivers to drive slowly and always be watching for pedestrians assuming someone will be around the corner etc, and for pedestrians to always be aware of cars.


0 ( +0 / -0 )

Even though nobody is listening...I'll tell you why. Because there are too many stupid people.

True story. My child can't choose the streets to walk to school. They are designated, even though there is a safer route. Then because she's new, three older kids were designated to walk with the kids to school for 3 weeks. Other kids wanted to, but no, the school had decided who was to be assigned. I spied from behind, and the kids just walked ahead with the little kids behind, and they didn't even use a pedestrian crossing!!

So in typical Japanese fashion they went to all the trouble to decide on all the different routes, and produced all the maps, and then some teacher probably spent hours assigning all the different sempais.

But, they didn't point out the landmarks, and they didn't teach them to use the crossing - at a road where it won't surprise me if someone gets hit.

To make matters worse? A teacher walked with them home. The kids behind were walking on the white line on the side like it was a tightrope. The teacher saw and laughed and said "But if you fall, you might fall onto the car side", and they giggled. Now why wouldn't the teacher see that as the perfect teaching opportunity and tell them to always walk INSIDE the line, and to never assume that cars will see them, and that an idiot on a keitai, or a bad driver, or an old driver, or whatever only has to veer one or two meters and they are dead - so always be looking and listening, and check behind you.

So, if an elementary teacher doesn't understand the dangers of the roads, they could spend millions on more signs and still people will get killed and maimed.

Geez, a kid too poor to go to school in Africa has more sense than most adults here.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

mikihouseApr. 28, 2012 - 07:21AM JST they don't see a thing because there is no mirror to show somebody is crossing and there is a big electric pole blocking their view when they turn left but there is a very big sign CHILDREN CROSSING SCHOOL ZONE. I think its just a matter of time before somebody get badly hurt...

This is all too common. Instead of speed bumps they should be formulating new legislation to keep crossing areas clear of obstructions from all angles and well lit. There's an odd left turn on my route home where the road isn't at 90 degrees, but rather at about 45 degrees, and it is very badly lit, with a pedestrian crossing.. but also two large trees that effectively hide anyone about to walk from drivers turning left. Thus, to the driver, the pedestrians seem to appear out of nowhere. Even if the driver was going 20km/hr it wouldn't help much since they appear almost on the hood of your car.

I'm also taller than most (although a lot of younger Japanese people are my height now) and the mirrors at the intersections are set at the wrong angle for me, so I have to slouch down deliberately in order to use them... which is distracting and difficult. Bigger mirrors offering a wider field of view would be better.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Education Ministry and National Police Agency ....should tell people to think. Just think.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Can they stop making drivers be "distracted"? Thanks...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are certain things that can be done about this, and certain things that cannot. It's a LOT harder to suddenly expand the width of a street for sidewalks and/or guardrails because buildings are built right up to the streets, hydro poles line the sides of the road blocking the limited walking space so you're forced into traffic, and these streets were never meant to have traffic going both ways. I was impressed to see that they used a lot of the last-minute fiscal year leftover to actually expand some streets not far off, but it's still few and far between. The 'street' I have to walk along every day is lined with rock wall on both sides and on one side has a walking space of about 40 cm or so, with only a painted white line separating you from the traffic (and motor-bikes always use it to pass cars and what not). Since there is a university in the area there are often young people heading to school and standing side by side or in threes chit-chatting, so that I have to walk into traffic. There's always a kind old man who holds a sign that asks them to form a single line, but even the people who bother to listen just go back into pairs when they pass him.

Which brings me to my next point: lowering speed limits, or making traffic on certain streets in some cases would be a help, but in cases of driver/pedestrian stupidity -- and all of these were driver stupidity -- no would it help with criminal negligence. This is where the cops have to step in; make more of a presence (not just driver safety week) and don't accept ANY car speeding through a red light for starters. Revise laws to make for stricter punishments of said infringements, and attend driver's school to make the would-be drivers more aware of the dangers by presenting the facts.

And yeah, hurry up and get on the autonomous drive technology!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

1) make truck routes to keep them away from roads with schools. 2) more cycling roads. 3) Make all those narrow streets in Japan one way roads. 4) make all sidewalks in busy areas have real guard rails to protect against idiot drivers. (little poles connected by one little chain does not to protect a life from a car or truck.) 5) don't let epileptics get drivers' licenses. 6) move all the schools off of busy roads. 7) build more elevated pedestrian road bridges. 8) enforce stopping at red lights. 9) encourage children to be home-schooled. 10) close down school zones to all traffic before and after school. and that's just the start......

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese drivers are terrible. Never stop at a stop sign. 2, pedestrians are ignorant and have no body awareness at all. Their radar is broken.
-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I think automobiles and trucks should have S-chip(speed chip control). This is how it should work s-chip is activated in small streets the car's speed 30 km, big street 45 km and autoroute 65 km tops. We have this the technology lets use it or create it. We have smart people... I think! Everyone uses bikes, its healthy, or bus metro walk(BMW) and trains too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think we all need to take a good, hard look in the mirror. Let's face it, do we always come to a complete stop at intersections with no traffic light? I'm guilty of doing the slow-down-but-not-stop thing that so many drivers do here. Cops need to start targeting narrow alleys and hand out more citations.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think they should have lots and lots of meetings, write a report, hold a news conference about all the work they did, and then go back to their offices confident that the 'did something' about the safety of children. Meanwhile, the deaths will continue unabated.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are many glitches in some road constructions in Japan especially the inner roads that access to the main roads. It's so narrow and no place for pedestrians. I agree with that HUMPS should be constructed on narrow roads and school vicinities. And to those drivers licensing business, teach more on practical defensive driving not with exams on paper. The most expensive country, milking the applicants ¥300,000 plus for drivers licence is Japan. Many passes the theoretical exams but very poor in defensive driving that's why you have lots of Paper Drivers. hehehe

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ah yes, here we go. First we will "look at ways" to improve road safety.

Then we will "make sincere efforts" to improve road safety.

Then a cute road safety mascot will start appearing in train stations where people who drive won't see them, to improve road safety.

And at no time will anything actually be done to actually road safety.

Across the road from me I see a narrow bicycle lane (less than the width of a bicycle tyre in places) along which, in the absence of a pavement, the kids walk to school. All the way along this road are dotted telegraph poles, gomi collection posts, etc. making it necessary for the kids to step outside the magic, car-deflecting white paint which delineates the cycle lane.

Goodness me, I wonder why there are accidents? We must "look into" road safety. Maybe AKB48 can appear on some posters. Anyway, take the wheel for a moment, I have to answer the phone.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Speed humps may help to slow cars down. They would also help reduce the number of people who "momentarily lose concentration." There is a danger (as in England) that people speed up between humps and then hit the brakes, but maybe the driving temperament in Japan is different to the UK (far fewer cases of road rage for starters, so there may be hope here).

And on narrow roads that have no separate pavement how about painting the white lines that separate pedestrians with those raised bumps that warn drivers they are moving out of lane? We have them on motorways in the UK but I don't know the official name for them. There are measures that can be taken that require no major widening of existing roads.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cops at random intersections during school travel hours.

And any traffic infraction (speeding, failure to stop, etc...) needs to result in MASSIVE punishment that includes loss of license for a set period of time.

There is NO SUCH THING as being too severe when the results of not doing so are the lives of young innocent children. You've taken the test, you've got your license. If you can't control your weapon, then you shouldn't be allowed to operate one.

See. Simple.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ah yes, here we go. First we will "look at ways" to improve road safety. Then we will "make sincere efforts" to improve road safety. Then a cute road safety mascot will start appearing in train stations where people who drive won't see them, to improve road safety. And at no time will anything actually be done to actually road safety.

Ugh, I hate this kind of "Pollyanna" thinking in Japan... Maybe if they act cute enough, then nothing bad could happen to them, a kind of childish wishful thinking. It's just naive and irresponsible.

Well, I guess we can be cynical and mocking, or we can try to do something about it...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How about buses? Or car pooling? Nah, that would be too hectic. Hmm, if only pedestrians have more sense about looking both ways EVEN though it's a green man flashing telling you it's safe. I'm sure all of you have witnessed this. Always be on the look out for OTHER people's mistakes, or that's what I was taught. Avoided so man close calls that way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Eventually they'll force drivers to accept autonomous drive technology in their vehicles, even though most drivers are uncomfortable with that concept. Agree with NeverSubmit, only this technology can be effective in such situation. Too many cars and narrow roads will always lead to accidents because there is a large number of inexperienced drivers. Such technology not only can stop the car before the obstacle, it can limit the speed where this is required. We are living in XXI century, so the solutions should be adequate to the times.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One small caveat about speed bumps and (particularly) the raised shoulder lines that Hatsoff suggests: both of these things are very dangerous for bicyclists. The raised shoulder lines in particular can be deadly -- they're a few centimeters tall but if you were to bump a bicycle tire into it nearly parallel, there would be a serious risk of a crash.

The expanded use of these things would send more bicyclists onto the sidewalks. While this is a lot safer for cyclists, it clogs the sidewalks and increases the odds of minor injuries to pedestrians.

Ultimately it has to be the automobile drivers who make the sacrifices and bear the burdens of the dangers and costs that their machines create. They have a privilege that not all pedestrians can obtain, and they're free to become pedestrians if they can't handle the responsibility that comes with their privilege.

Every year hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists are killed by automobile drivers, but how many automobile drivers are killed by pedestrians and cyclists? Zero?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just ENFORCE the traffic laws. If they start that I bet drivers would be more careful.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lowering speed limit won't do a danm thing if the limits aren't enforced!! Why the cops can't get off their asses and ticket people for speeding, driving without seatsbealts and using their phones is beyond me. They could pay off the national debt in just a matter of months if they bothered to ticket people.

Guard rails are needed but you know what is needed more? Safe drivers. Change the test. Too many damn paper drivers and crappy drivers out there.

Too many kids not paying attention and screwing around. I watched the news the other day and they were showing kids walking to school. Two abreast and running into the street. You can't just blame the drivers with this. People here don't pay attention to their surroundings. Be it drivers, bikers or pedestrians. Bikers without helmets going the wrong way who get hit? Not fair just to blame the drivers. People walking at night with dark clothing on the road? Not just the driver's fault. The past few deaths have been tragedies and a wake up call but it shouldn't be just a wake up call to drivers. EVERYONE needs to start looking around them and taking care of their safety.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

"In all three accidents, the roads were narrow and there were no sidewalks, nor were there any guardrails."

They're going to look for "ways to improve road safety?"

Put in sidewalks. Put up guardrails.

There. I just saved the Japanese taxpayer a few million yen in forestalling what would undoubtedly have been the creation of another money-burning subcommittee to illuminate the obvious.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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