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No. of traffic fatalities in 2016 falls below 4,000 for first time in 67 years

42 Comments

The total number of fatal traffic accident victims in Japan in 2016 was 3,904, the first time the figure has been below 4,000 in 67 years, the National Police Agency (NPA) said Wednesday. The figure was 213 fewer than in 2015.

By age group, the number of deaths of people aged 65 and older was 2,138, which accounted for 54.8% of all traffic fatalities, and the highest since 1967, Fuji TV reported. Drunken driving accounted for 213 deaths, the NPA said

By region, the highest number of fatalities was 212 in Aichi Prefecture, followed by Chiba Prefecture (185), Osaka (161) and Tokyo (159). The lowest road death toll was recorded in Tottori Prefecture with 17 fatalities.

NPA officials said they believe the lower figure was due to improved automobile technology and better road conditions. The NPA said it will work to increase traffic safety awareness, such as seatbelt use, with more campaigns this year.

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42 Comments
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I tell you what, I have been doing a lot of driving in the last 2 weeks here, the standards of driving I have witnessed are terrible. People just do whatever they want. It's like the barrier of a car just provides them with the opportunity to treat others with contempt, and put themselves first. And the second arm to the problem is that nobody objects! I get on the horn and receive looks of abject horror that I have had the temerity to bring to their attention that they are truly an awful driver.

But I appear to be the only one.....

11 ( +16 / -5 )

Good. But let's further reduce it substantially by requiring the use of seatbelts at all times including in the back seats, and most of all, requiring the use of suitable child restraints at all times. Sitting on an adult's lap in the front seat is most definitely not suitable and yet we see it every day.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

One amazing global statistic is that everyone thinks they are an above-average driver . . .

7 ( +7 / -0 )

NPA officials said they believe the lower figure was due to improved automobile technology and better road conditions.

How about passing along the statistics for the number of people who died AFTER the fact, and not just at the scene or following right after the accident occurred?

Reporting the "statistics" has also changed, so these numbers may not be what they seem to be.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

"How about passing along the statistics for the number of people who died AFTER the fact, and not just at the scene or following right after the accident occurred?

Reporting the "statistics" has also changed, so these numbers may not be what they seem to be."

Yeah. I was wondering about this. Japan is notorious for bending the numbers. Like how they say the unemployment rate is so low, but fail to mention that half the workforce is under underemployed.

Lets hope these number are to be believed, if so, it's great news.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Good news! 4,000 is still absurdly high, but per capita is one of the lowest on Earth. Particularly the number for Tokyo must make here one of the safest cities

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The fact that the rate is falling is great. Could never be a negative point.

But we do need to appreciate statistical data is not always so clear cut, esp when comparing countries.

As others have mentioned, considering Japan is a "low speed" country there must be a number of strong reasons why there are still too many fatalities.

And by too many - I mean compared to many other developed countries. For me the most telling statistic is the number of fatalities per km - usually expressed as deaths per 1 billion kms travelled. This statistic offers insight into real-time-driving, because if you have less fatalities but drivers are covering only short distances, then you have a real anomaly in data interpretation.

For example in the following developed democracies - fatalities / 1billion vehicle kms.

UK 3.6, Switzerland 4.3, Norway 4,4, Germany 4.9, Australia 5.2, France 5.8, Canada 6.2, USA 7.1, Belgium 7.3, Spain 7.8, Japan 8.0.

Many of these countries have higher max speeds and challenging conditons, weather and terrain - like Japan - so other factors must come into play. Something that comes immediately to mind is a less efficient driver education system matched with a less efficient traffic policing system.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

less of them are alive...less of them are driving... less younger drivers....probably less drivers overall.... also less safety features

FEWER! There were FEWER of them, not less.

Starting the morning wth a grammatical peeve, sorry.

Also a factual peeve; Older drivers are not 'less safe'. The most dangerous driving age groups are the teenagers (accident rate of 2.98%), followed by the early 20s (2.01%) and the late 20s (1.43%). The 65~74 age group have accident rates on a par with the late 40s to early 50s (0.96%~0.98%). The over-75s (1.12%) are not much worse than the early 30s (1.09%), and better than the overall average (1.19%). The safest drivers are in their early 40s (0.92%).

http://www.jiko110-akb.com/diary/%E9%AB%98%E9%BD%A2%E9%81%8B%E8%BB%A2%E8%80%85%E3%81%AB%E3%82%88%E3%82%8B%E4%BA%8B%E6%95%85%E3%81%AF%E5%A2%97%E3%81%88%E3%81%9F%E3%81%AE%E3%81%8B%EF%BC%9F/

3 ( +4 / -1 )

And the number of times I've seen drivers use mobile phones while driving, or mothers with babies in their laps or young kids jumping about on the front seat. It beggars belief that this country thinks it's above places like SE Asia.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Compare to France, driving in Japan is very safe, as drivers go slowly respecting the rules and not being aggressive at all. Speed limits however are rather too low as a natural way to go on normal roads is at 50-70 and not 30-50 km/h. If you find Japan dangerous do not go to Latin countries

2 ( +6 / -4 )

A quick search will prove most posters here vastly incorrect and even suspiciously off target, almost as if deliberately driven by bitter personal emotions rather than fact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate

A quick look here will show that Japan's high stats from 2013 are still far better than America's, which resembles a third world death trap with 100 traffic killings per day.

If you bother to recalculate with the updated figures from this article for 2016, then the per capita rate here is on the same level as famously safe Singapore and safer than most of Europe. Seeing as Japan has a much higher population than any Western Euro country, this is an outstanding achievement. Japan does get a lot of things wrong but traffic safety is factually one thing they do far better than pretty much the entire world so it's curious as to what is negative about any of this..

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Pretty impressive especially for Tokyo with such a large population.

BTW, do those figures include pedestrians, such as those hit by the red light runners?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

No wonder auto industry is concentrating on self driving car development. Drivers just complain other drivers bu never think of how themselves drive.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The number went down. That's good. Whatever negative spin you put on it, there were less deaths.

Driving conditions are completely different from North America or Europe, so comparing apples to oranges is not very realistic IMHO.

Some are commenting that the death rate is low because of high population density and lower speed limits... OK, so then are you admitting that if the population density stayed the same and they raised the speed limits, there would be more deaths? In which case, the speed limits are theoretically ideal as they are.

Many others mention lack of education, but I am not sure if they realize how much driver education each native Japanese person has to receive before acquiring their license. If anything, I believe it's lack of enforcement.

Driving is not perfect in Japan, but if you are aware and conscious of the unique dangers of driving in Japan (what to look out for), then I think you can prevent dying in an accident for the most part. Just like in any other country.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cleo: Thanks for the grammatical correction.

I will make fewer mistakes in the future!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There is no "pressure to substitute fewer for less". Nor is there any "ambiguity it may provide in noun phrases like less promising results".

The pressure is to stop using less where fewer is correct. Countable nouns and uncountable nouns, it isn't rocket science.

And the use of the correct word removes any possible ambiguity.

less promising results = the results are not as promising. (less modifies the adjective promising)

fewer promising results = not as many results that are promising (fewer modifies the countable noun results)

As for the driving accident stats - granted, the numbers will depend on the variables considered, and 'kilometres driven' is a very significant variable. turbostat's link states that mile for mile teenagers have a crash rate 9 times higher than middle-aged drivers, while those over 80 have a crash rate that is 5.5 times as high. That backs up my point, that younger drivers are much less safe than older drivers. As the population ages, there will likely be more accidents caused by older drivers in absolute terms, simply because there will be more older drivers. Mile for mile though, the rate will probably not change all that much.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well it's certainly not due to any improvements in driving. Every time I come back to Japan from countries like UK and USA, I have to remind myself that pedestrian crossings mean FA - they serve absolutely no purpose, and that red lights mean drivers don't have to stop for another 4 seconds, and that pedestrian traffic lights mean FA to more than half of the drivers who are turning left or right. And one of the first things friends who come to Japan say to me are, where the hell are the pavements/sidewalks?

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Great!!!!!!!!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Tamarama, agree, many awful drivers. Reckon Japan's high population density explains the relatively low number of fatalities i.e relatively low speeds in a dense, ultra-urban environment.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

So, over 50% were over 65 years old? That should ring alarm bells for driver safety. Also, I noticed that, Chiba prefecture is second for the nation's highest road deaths. This has been true for quite a few years. However, it does not state where the drivers came from. A very large percentage of drivers (if not most) come from Tokyo. You have workers and day trippers using the roads in Chiba. This does not necessarily mean Chiba drivers are bad. It means that those who use the roads in Chiba are bad.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Tamarama, the level of driving in Japan is comparable with that in the USA, and way worse than that in the European Germanic countries (Germany, Scandinavia).

I have to agree. Like America, the Japanese have no concept at all of passing lanes. While better than America, the Japanese are emotional drivers, and often see letting a care in front as a personal loss of some sort. They are also often on their smart phones, and often completely oblivious to the existence of other drivers.

I didn't feel this way until this year, when I did a lot of driving around central Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Italy). Even the "notorious" Italians are much better drivers than the Japanese, in my opinion.

To be fair, though, I am talking about Kyushu, which is one of the worst areas in Japan for driving.

The other thing is, this straight comparison of statistics is difficult. For one, we don't know how they are tallied in each country. For another, they don't consider factors such as the high speeds of driving in Germany, or the lack of pedestrian walkways in Japan, which would certainly both increase fatalities.

Rather than lower the speed limits to ridiculous levels that everybody ignores, as is the case in Japan, more effective driver education and better enforcement of basic traffic rules would do wonders.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

the first time the figure has been below 4,000 in 67 years, the National Police Agency (NPA) said Wednesday. ... By age group, the number of deaths of people aged 65 and older was 2,138, which accounted for 54.8% of all traffic fatalities, and the highest since 1967, ...

The baby boomers are starting to reach the end of the bathtub curve, where less of them are alive and also less of them are driving themselves.

So a trend for the drop in older, less safe drivers, combined with a trend for increasing safety features.

At the younger end of drivers, downward trending fertility rates mean less younger drivers, who also are less safe.

67 years ago there were probably less drivers overall, but there were also less safety features in cars.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I would say the toll roads and expressways are most likely where the majority of fatalities occur because they are one of the few places on roads where you reach speeds that would be fatal. Poodling around the suburbs here is generally done at a very low speed and might injure people in a crash, but are unlikely to be fatal.

I absolutely stand by my observation about the low standard of drivers, which has absolutely nothing to do with 'bitterness', which is a weird comment. Safe driving (I have driven in Australia, Canada, Europe, South East Asia) is done in predictable patterns where everyone does what they are meant to do at the appropriate places. In countries where this occurs, you can almost drive on auto pilot because of these predictable patterns. Accidents occur when somebody deviates from this.

In the last few weeks, I am constantly on guard in the car because I see people deviating from patterns and doing stupid things all the time. Failure to give way is a big one, but it's also a lack on general spacial awareness as to what's surrounding their vehicle as they move. An impatience and unwillingness to wait is another. The only thing that keeps the crash rate low is that driver seem to be half expecting everyone else to do weird things, so they allow it, or tolerate it.

Now, where's my horn.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

cleo: FEWER! There were FEWER of them, not less. Starting the morning wth a grammatical peeve, sorry. ... Also, a factual peeve: Older drivers are not ...

Not bending to either of your peeves, at least not these two ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fewer_vs._less

...The Cambridge Guide to English Usage notes that the "pressure to substitute fewer for less seems to have developed out of all proportion to the ambiguity it may provide in noun phrases like less promising results". It describes conformance with this pressure as a shibboleth and the choice "between the more formal fewer and the more spontaneous less" as a stylistic choice.

And:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/road-safety/7092869/Driving-skills-are-older-drivers-better-than-young-ones.html

... Drivers over 70 are safer on bends (and at overtaking) than 50-year-olds, according to the IAM research, but more at risk at junctions, slip roads and roundabouts. ... And while 70-year-olds might seem safe enough now, what happens as the inevitable effects of age quickly begin to catch up? Drivers over 85 were found to be four times likelier to have caused a crash than to have been an innocent victim, with accidents in which older women are to blame peaking five years earlier than those for older men. ...

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/10/teenagers-and-older-people-are-the-riskiest-drivers/index.htm

... People 80 and older are involved in 5.5 times as many fatal crashes per mile driven as middle-aged drivers. ... The Pew Research Center says that 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 18 years. By 2030, they’ll represent almost one in five drivers. In the population overall they’ll outnumber 16- to 19-year-olds more than three to one. Some experts call that trend the silver tsunami. ...

Dangerous curves: plotting the problem ... (inset with graph showing the typical bathtub curve with driver age as the x-axis, for police-reported accidents per million miles driven and fatal accidents per 100 million miles driven) ...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Let me say that this is no surprise whatsoever. Japan has more regulation, more safety features, and probably slower speeds than it ever has. Any year now, the number of drivers will start to fall, and accident figures will decline further. Driving in Japan is generally slow, which I am ok with. You want fast? Fly or take a train. Japan has plenty of those, and they are not inconvenient.

I can also agree with most people that general law-abiding is not doing so well these days. People do not stop at stop signs. People run red lights. I would really really enjoy a month of rampant ticket writing to get everyone back in order. We all know that if that does not happen now and again, then we will wind up with cameras and other nonsense cropping up to deal with compounded problems later. Huge fines should be given to drivers who don't follow the rules. I am not worried in the least because I follow the rules. The National Police Agency will tell you the same thing. You might not like it, but they are right. If everyone followed the rules, things would run smoothly. They are designed that way.

Go ahead and flame away, but I think that if everyone simply obeyed the posted regulations and signals, accident rates would drop nearly to zero. We have met the enemy, and they is us. People seem to be using their inadequate brains to take risks that do not pay off, eventually causing accidents.

Funny anecdote. Many years ago, a "close friend of mine" had to attend a driver class because of some speeding infraction. There was a 15 minute break or so. My "friend" noted that out of about 80 people in the class, about 70 were men, and about 65 were smokers. They used the break to go out and light up outside. You know what that says to me? People who lack the ability to make reasonable life and death decisions are the same people who lack the ability to make reasonable life and death decisions.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

most fatalities occur within a zone of 5 ~ 10km radius from the drivers house

The problem I have with that statistic, even if it were true, is that most driving is done 5 to 10 kms from the driver's home.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

commanteer - the comment was made in regard to tamarama's post about most deaths occuring on highways.

My comment was just refuting that - that's all - as many people believe the big bad highways are the killers, wherein fact it's the local roads.

A bit like most murderers are friends, family or known to their victims - not strangers, but many people would think otherwise.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tamarama, the level of driving in Japan is comparable with that in the USA, and way worse than that in the European Germanic countries (Germany, Scandinavia). In other words, people in Japan don't really know how to drive: don't know how to stop at the stop marks, don't stop at red lights, don't yield and use priority correctly, and don't drive the legal speed. Don't get me started on the rotaries :) .

Most of them would not pass a driver's licence test done by the German standards.

That the number of traffic fatalities has decreased does not say anything unless we know the reason for the decrease. For example, as the average speeds are very low and decreasing in Japan, this is a major be an influential factor, even with the huge number of "rolling coffins, aka Kei-Cars, on the streets. Also, if the death did not occurred in the first 24 hours after an accident, it is considered as a "natural death" and not counted here. They're lying with statistics, a practice Japan has raised to the rang of art.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

More raw numbers that don't really tell a story. It is commendable that the number is falling but it does not mean it's safer out there.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@browny1... Well written. Ultimately, yes, that fatalities have dropped is great but statistics need to be put into context and the number of fatalities per Km traveled is a relevant method. I wonder what percentage of Japan's overall working population commutes by train or bus?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@browny1 exactly, I stated almost the same statistics many months ago , but got thumbed downed. Japanese on average drive less than 10,000km per year per vehicle. compared to countries like the US Australia where distances are far greater they drive almost double that. Risk like in most statistics is heavily dependent on exposure. more km driven = higher exposure to having an accident. While Japans fatalities are dropping , its more to do with safer vehicles, better roads and more policing than actual drivers skill levels increasing.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

When Japanese wealthy people began buying a car? In 1.51.Ford and GM began xelling cars. Owners employed chauffeurs. Nissan founder Mr Auukawa was releacsed from war prison and car to promote new passenger cars in our cit. When asked if Nissan makes fars to female, he said no skee why, he said women do not drive cars. When girls said American actress drive, he andwered, American women are bigger than Japanese men. .

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Cleo - interesting stats - but I bring you back to the earlier point I made and wtfjapan mentioned and that is the fatalities per km.

I suspect that the elderly drive considerably less (fewer) kms than young people. Until we know on average how many kms each age group drives then the reading of the data is skewered. Perhaps the elderly drivers have that death rate while only being on the road (exposed as wtf put it) for a fraction of the time of many other drivers. If that is the case, then their real death rate (per exposure time) would be significantly higher. I'd hedge my bets on that.

Tamarama - I agree with most of your points - however I believe it is an urban myth that most fatalities occur at high speed on toll-ways. I've read statistics before (can't recall where - no time now to find) that most fatalities occur within a zone of 5 ~ 10km radius from the drivers house and usually at average speeds or not very high speeds. For all the billions of kms of high speed travel on highways, there are remarkably few fatalities. The incidents are often more shocking (multiple vehicles, buses, trucks etc) so attract more attention. The quiet suburban crashes are often only reported locally.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I did not and am not addressing teen drivers at all. I was only pointing out that the bathtub curve, the start of the boomer cohort approaching the older lip of that curve, plus other factors, could explain the fall noted in the article even though the article doesn't mention it. As far as the table of Japanese statistics, I don't think it's useful to bring up age stats unless they are tied to distance driven. Maybe that's why they don't show much of a curve.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Is this number accurate? A long time ago, began selling cars inbefore you guys were born, after Japan lost war, we were riding bike and rakish waspopular. Then ford and Gm began cars in Japan. 1951: Asahi and Mainichi always treated Car accident as national top news if any.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the level of driving in Japan is comparable with that in the USA, and way worse than that in the European Germanic countries (Germany, Scandinavia). In other words, people in Japan don't really know how to drive: don't know how to stop at the stop marks, don't stop at red lights, don't yield and use priority correctly, and don't drive the legal spee

absolutely wrong

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

ebisen

Most of them would not pass a driver's licence test done by the German standards fully wrong assumptions

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Cleo - thanks.

And I certainly agree with the stats that state beginner drivers are involved in more accidents and more fatalities per mile. But those statistics relate to the UK. I'm not suggesting there isn't a general global trend regarding inexperienced, beginner drivers being more likely to have accidents, however sometimes data doesn't travel well internationally.

For instance - in my home country Australia, the accident / death rate is heavily swayed in favour of the younger drivers. This is acknowledged by police and society and many efforts have / are being made to address this terrible situation.

On the other hand, in Japan the statistics are heavily loaded at the aged end of the spectrum. So as I mentioned earlier, I suspect that km / km elderly drivers in Japan fare far worse than their counterparts in other advanced driving countries. And this must be caused by other factors, relevant to the drivers / driving environment here.

Perhaps someone has access to this data - rate of km / fatality across age groups in Japan???

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

NPA officials said they believe the lower figure was due to improved automobile technology and better road conditions.

BS. I believe the lower figure was due to population decline. You have far less young people today which means that there are less and less young and inexperienced drivers on the road.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@dcog9065 Sorry to correct you here but the numbers show exactly how awful drivers they are. The only relevant number is the fatality per driven kilometers and here, Japan is just ways behind e.g. Germany. But that follows a certain pattern in Japan: the safest way is "just don't drive" or "let's lower the speed limit further until we are on walking speed from Tokyo to Yokohama" or "let's build another 赤信号 until people can't drive any more" instead of just teaching the people how to drive responsibly and carefully. But no wonder, those drivers who just use their car on 正月 or Golden Week are ticking bombs. As many others said: Teach them to not use the mobile phone while driving, teach them to use child seats, teach them that it's dangerous to have a pet on the lap while driving, teach them to speed up when they use the right lanes and perhaps teach them that K-Cars are the highest risk vecicles on the roads (after bicycles and wheel chairs) and should be forbidden to use highways, then the number goes down significantly below 1,000.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

biswarup - I speak out of my own experience of driving in both countries for very long (>10 years). Japan's drivers are quite poor, and their driving education lack big amounts of important points. The major reason for the very low death count is the bad road efficiency in Japan (average speed in Japan on public roads, except highway is borderline 30 km/h). In Germany it is more than double of that.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

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