Recently, there have been several deaths related to careless driving in Japan. Unfortunately, they’ve involved young children. Most recently, a 65 year old man plowed through a group of children crossing the street at a crosswalk legally. He wasn’t paying attention. The 6 year old girl he hit later died in the hospital. I hear about this far too often. Not only do I hear about it, I see it happen.
In the last year, I have nearly been hit by a car no less than 4 times while I was crossing the street on a crosswalk on a walk signal. 3 weeks ago, I was crossing on a walk signal, when a car came around the corner, heading straight for me, and the driver slammed on the brakes. So many things were wrong with this. I’d been crossing a wide road, and was almost across when this happened. He had ample opportunity to see me crossing. He was cornering too quickly. He didn’t even use his turn signal. I had no idea he was going to turn. I could’ve kicked his car as he came within half a metre of me, but I didn’t. I just glared at him. If I’d been crossing the street with my daughter, I’d have been furious.
There is a big problem with drivers in Japan. Not only do they disregard some basic traffic laws, the police don’t seem to do much about it. This is what I witness on an almost daily basis: running red lights, turning without signalling, ignoring pedestrians at crosswalks, speeding on narrow residential streets (the worst offenders are taxi drivers), blocking traffic by parking on narrow streets with hazard lights turned on, and driving at night with no lights on.
When I came to Japan, I was impressed with how well people in Japan can park in a narrow space. Experts at parking, but really need to review safety rules. I have a driver’s license, and when I renewed my licensed last year, there was a 2 hour long driving safety seminar that I had to join. They talked about most of the problems I stated above, but most people just completely ignored the speaker, including the 5 people who were sleeping. Driving schools teach people how to drive on a closed course, with not much actual driving on real streets. Many drivers in Japan are “paper drivers.” Many have gold driver’s licenses, which is supposed to mean very safe and experienced. However, it really means that they’ve never had an accident or a ticket. Don’t drive? No problem! You get a gold card for being such a safe driver! It’s ridiculous.
I wish the police would actually get out on the roads and hand out some tickets. How long will it take for people to wake up? Will it take 5 more dead kids? 10 more? 20 more? 1 more is too many. They need to do something now.
The reckless bicycle riders and the bike gangs need to be taken care of, too.