Japan's traffic deaths drop to record low under 3,700 in 2017


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Gadget - The problem is fewer people would use a bike if helmet usage was made mandatory. This is what happened in Australia. No one uses a helmet when biking to the supermarket in Denmark - and fatalities are almost nonexistent. The problem is with cars and trucks, the speed and mass of the things - and car-centric planning that does nothing slow them down or separate them from vulnerable pedal and cyclists in most places.

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Likewise, mandating helmet usage would also be another step to catch up with other developed countries. It seems that once kids graduate from JHS, the helmet goes in the dustbin.

Attitudes to bike usage in JP seem to have formed when it was the predominate form of short term transport, and the greatest injury one was likely to sustain was a grazed knee, bump or broken arm. These attitudes do not translate well when faced with high density housing, narrow mixed use streets, and the advent of modern assisted bikes (and others) which allow users to move at much greater speeds at ease than was possible before.

There seems to be a real stigma attached to purchasing and using a normal bicycle helmet here, unless you cycle for sporting purposes.

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streets are just not designed for a mix of cars bikes and pedestrians. 

Yes, this is the crux of the matter.

With more people, especially women and elderly making more trips by bike(e-assist bike sales are skyrocketing!), it is time for the government - if they are truly serious about sharply decreasing the traffic fatality rate by 2020 - to finally begin to provide safe protected space for ALL road users.

For this to happen, however, the government needs to be willing to actively discourage unnecessary motor vehicle use in cities.

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tinawatanabe. No the NPA is not comparing results, but the natural inclination for anyone reading these stats is to consider their home countries population and road toll, and think that Japan is doing exceedingly well on this front through active management. That isn't the case. Improvements in technology and a decreasing population with societal change appears to be having a far greater effect on the road toll than any programs that the government or NPA have been pushing.

yokohamarides. Good point. It makes you wonder if the proportion of pedestrian and cyclist deaths can be attributed to a falling population of drivers seeking alternative transport. And lets face it, despite the relatively high numbers of cyclists in this country, helmet usage is shockingly low and the streets are just not designed for a mix of cars bikes and pedestrians. Often there is little or no separation between the three, and the inevitable happens.

Thank you Luddite highlighting the advances in healthcare as another contributing factor in reducing the toll. However, this in itself is another can of worms. How many more lives could be saved (road accident or other) if EMT/Ambulance staff had free reign to perform any life sustaining medical procedure without the need to delay treatment and seek approval from a doctor first. In Japan, ambulance staff must seek approval from a consulting doctor before administering any drugs or treatments. As this process involves first calling a hospital, locating an available doctor with the necessary expertise, explaining the situation, injuries and symptoms as well as what drugs/treatment options are available on board . . . . many lives have been lost or irrevocably changed due to this bureaucracy.

Most developed countries give first responders the ability to provide whatever treatment (drugs or other) is necessary to sustain life. The details of those life sustaining treatments are then passed onto the doctors at the hospital on arrival.

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Sorry, typo.

”pedestrians or who died.”

The “or” should be deleted.

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This is a link to the NPA’s 75-page report on traffic death in 2017. I have only quickly skimmed part of it (too busy), but I noticed charts on seat belt use (inc the relationship between the driver and the person not using seat belt), child seat use, & whether there was a violation on the part of pedestrians or who died.

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An agency official attributed the decline to a police crackdown on traffic violations and the revised road traffic law which took effect in March last year...

Isn't "police crackdown on traffic violations" a PC way of saying "revenue enforcement?"

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Better health care is a major factor in people surviving road traffic accidents. I'd like to see figures on injuries to children, often not in seat belts or child seats, and of those who are left with life changing injuries due to an RTA.

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Not to mention also that with less cars, less accidents.

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What makes Japan unique is the extremely high rate of fatalities amongst vulnerable road users - pedestrians and cyclists.

From most recent OECD report -

"Pedestrians represent a very high share of total fatalities(37% of all fatalities in 2015) in comparison with other OECD countries. In 2015, cyclists represented 16% of total fatalities. This share could rise given the increasing popularity of cycling. Improving the safety of cyclist has become a priority."

In 2015, a 3% increase in road fatalities was observed amongst both cyclists and pedestrians. They together make up the majority (53%) of road fatalities in Japan."

Now, according to the above NPA report the rate has jumped to 69% - 1607 vs 1106. This is shocking.

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risk is calculated on the exposure rate,

Japanese arent just safer drivers its just that they dont drive as much as say American/Canadian /Australians etc due to the excellent public transportation system within the big ciites. average japanese in big cities drive less than 8000km per year as browny stated from a number of fatalities from a billion km traveled Japanese have twice as many deaths as countries like Denmark UK Ireland Sweden. theyre even worse than the US.

so looking at statistics on a death per capita basis isnt an indication of how safe a countries drivers are since Japan has a high percentage of elderly population that dont drive.

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“What constituted a ‘lack of traffic lights and road signs’?”

That there were not enough to properly manage the amount of traffic?

“Was that attributed to accidents? How so?”

I doubt it. But the reverse was probably true. Or at least a certain portion of them.

“What exactly did the police crack down on?”

Bad drivers?

“What are ‘improved road conditions’?”

More paved roads, more traffic signals, more signs/better placed signs?

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Road fatalities peaked in 1970, when Japan had a lack of traffic lights and road signs, but the figure dropped as a result of bolstered police crackdowns and improved road conditions.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find Japanese (or perhaps just NHK) to be woefully glib at times. Take this paragraph for instance. No doubt translated from Japanese, but what exactly does it mean? What constituted a ‘lack of traffic lights and road signs’? Was that attributed to accidents? How so? What exactly did the police crack down on? What are ‘improved road conditions’?

Whenever I listen to or read news items in or from Japanese, it usually begs more questions than it answers.

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Maybe because the Japanese drive more slowly and more sensibly in comparison to elsewhere.

Somebody hasn't driven in Kansai.

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@nandakandamanda - It's a shame that the tests for relicensing are not the same for every age. I suspect we'd see many people under 30 who would not pass.

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What I (re) learned from this article and the comments: data can be used to support just about any position.

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Although the NPA likes to publish these figures every year, they are not directly comparable with international figures for a number of reasons:

The NPA is not comparing with international figures.

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Inspector gadget - well covered.

And imo and many others the one unshakable statistic is how many fatalities / km

The following is just a sample of other leading oecd countries.

Deaths per 1 billion kms. (a very wide grasp)

Japan  -  8.0

Australia  -  5.2

Canada  -  6.2

Demark  -  4.0

France  -  5.8

Holland  -  4.5

UK  -  3.6

USA  -  7.1

Considering the high technology of cars here matched with the generally much lower speeds, there appears much room for improvement somewhere in the system.

Most deaths happen not so far from home.  Skill levels, traffic sense, and road manners need working on imo.

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Great... Welldone. Wondering if it is due to good roads, vehicles, drivers or is it just due to the reason that people use more trains and less cars.

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Although the NPA likes to publish these figures every year, they are not directly comparable with international figures for a number of reasons:

1) As nandakandamanda has alluded to, traditionally the annual Japanese road death figures do not include deaths caused by MVAs, which occur more than 24 hours after the accident occurs. This is the norm for most 1st world countries. One study that I read several years ago suggested that the number would be 30% higher of these were factored into the total.

2) On average, Japanese people have a very high proportion of public transport usage, (and an inversely low portion of private motor vehicle usage), as part of their transport needs. If Japanese accident figures were measured in deaths per 100,000 kms traveled in private motor vehicles, I suspect that the Japanese figures would be alarmingly compared to other 1st world countries.

3) The distance traveled by the average Japanese motorist on an annual basis is significantly lower than motorists in other 1st world countries (consider the popularity of Kei cars and low KM insurance plans as advertised on TV) . Like wise, the average speed of most commutes is very, low accidents at these speeds cause injures, rather than deaths.

4) The number of drivers in japan is dropping on an annual basis. The elderly are giving up their licences, and the diminishing number of under 20s choosing not to drive financial and other reasons. Fewer drivers equals fewer fatalities.

5) As with other countries, Japan is also reaping the rewards of the huge technological changes being introduced into even the smallest of vehicles. Improved LED headlights, Lane departure warnings, pedestrian protection, Electronic Stability Control, Multiple airbags for all occupants . . . the list goes on. Likewise with the improvements to roading.

If there is two things that you should take away from the above, it is that you can't compare the NPA stats with those of most other countries. Although the NPA like to pat themselves on the back year after year, the question has to be asked how much of the decreasing road toll can be attributed to their actions?

The second point is How would Japan's road toll compare to other developed countries if the stats were comparable? I suspect that Japan wouldn't look so rosy if the we could compare. And maybe that is why it is being reported in this way.

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dcog9065 - Well done! That's about one-tenth that of the US, who has a population 3x bigger,

That's not quite true. If you were to make a comparison, you would also need to figure in the percentage of people who drive, which is much lower in Japan compared to the US.

Yes, the statistics are good, but I think they can still do better.

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nandakandamanda, “Now is it not about time to include in the figures those who die more than 24 hours after accidents?”

The top chart on Page 2 of this PDF gives the NPA figures for deaths within 24 hrs (red line) and within 30 days (green line) for the last 25 years. Heisel 29/2017 is at the extreme right.

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Very lower rate than most other countries too, considering a lot of people do not wear seat belts and children are hardly ever restrained and drivers seem to be constantly texting. I do not know why. Maybe because the Japanese drive more slowly and more sensibly in comparison to elsewhere. Maybe that is it.

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Well, some good news! Surely rapidly declining car ownership and safer cars is also contributing.

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Very good.

Now is it not about time to include in the figures those who die more than 24 hours after accidents?

PS The other day I went through the latest remonitoring at a driving school and saw there how they are checking the skills of all older drivers, and at the same time actively encouraging people to give up their driving licence. My wife will have to go through this process too very soon. If you do not take the course, which includes re-education, an eye test, and ten minutes of driving a test car round a track, you will not be able to renew your licence at 70. After 75 the monitoring gets even stricter and more frequent.

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Well done! That's about one-tenth that of the US, who has a population 3x bigger, meaning a fatality rate of one-third or so for Japan. Very safe!

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Ten a day. Still a lot of grief through carelessness.

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