Dangerous driving in Japan

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.

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11 Comments

Filed under Daily Life

11 responses to “Dangerous driving in Japan

  1. YES YES YES!!!! Thank you for this post!!!
    All you say is (unfortunately) so, so true! 😦
    I already noticed that when I was just a pedestrian or riding my bicycle. I was almost hit a few times as well.
    Now that I’m driving myself it’s getting even scarier.
    Japanese drivers are very aggressive and don’t care much about traffic rules – but I do. I had HUGE trucks behind me, basically trying to knock me down from behind because I was too slow in their eyes (I was already driving much faster than allowed). SCARY AND CRAZY!!!

    Japanese drivers remind me of Italian drivers. Anybody who has ever been there knows what I mean.

    I think we still have many more car accidents in my home country (Germany), though. Simply of the speed (no speed limit on the highways etc.)

    • When I drive, I pay attention to traffic rules, pedestrians and so on. I’m a courteous driver, which has resulted in me being delayed due to the ridiculous traffic in Japan. Unfortunately, the only way to get into an endless stream of cars is to wait for the one in a thousand courteous people or be aggressive and cut in. It is sad.

  2. This is 100% accurate. One more thing I’ll add to the list of what police ignore – unsecured children in cars. Kids jumping around in the back seat, hanging out of windows or being held on their mother’s laps in the front seat without a seat belt. I just hope they never get in an accident, or have to brake sharply.

    • That reminds me of the time when my wife and I saw a family in a small SUV with a child seat in the front. That is dangerous! If they’re in an accident, the airbag could kill the kid. He was about 3 or 4 years old, and even had his feet up on the dashboard. The parents weren’t doing anything about it.

  3. Anonymous

    There’s a road near where I live in Tokyo that can’t be wider than 5 meters, has no sidewalk, is very poorly lit and a popular school route. Unfortunately some drivers, almost always taxi drivers, bomb down this road at a frightening speeds, especially at night time when many kids are walking home from juku. I’ve recently got so angry with the taxi drivers’ flagrantly dangerous driving that I’ve actually felt that I had to give them a serious talking to.

    • I’ve been in a taxi driven by one of those kinds of drivers on a narrow, curvy street. I was terrified that he would hit something or someone. He seemed so reckless.

  4. Pingback: 2012 in Review | Jay Dee in Japan

  5. Peter

    The post Ive been looking for. I try and drive respectful for all people around me, but have to put up with on a daily basis really poor judgement and aggression.

    I take a dual carriage way for about 30 minutes on a regular basis, the amount of tailgating, accelarating, heavy breaking – only to be parked next to them at the end of the road is too depressing.

    Its not been mentioned, but 3 cars nipping through a red on a cross road kills me. They fill the end of the queue which results in my lane being stuck constantly on our side.

  6. Marc

    I’ve been crying about this for what seems like forever. Japanese drivers have fantastic technical driving skills but very little road manners. I was so close to being run down, not once but twice in the last week alone.

    First instance, was crossing at a fairly wide pedestrian crossing when middle aged dude with his V8 motor purring cones flying around the corner. I was within inches of being knocked down and was only saved by being able to swerve my bike with some effort.
    Needless to say I gave him a mouthful and I didn’t even get a nod in return.

    Days later, it was a truck running a red light. I’d ventured out about a meter on to the road after getting the green go ahead. Quickly backed up when I saw the coming road train. He was no where near slowing down and I’d say he didn’t even notice me as he was too busy looking at the cars waiting to turn on the opposite side of the road.

    I can guarantee that once a traffic signal goes red here, at least 2 cars will continue through. It’s damn ridiculous. I’d also say that bicycle riders are just as negligent when it comes to pedestrians. Riding while texting, refusing to go single file, riding way too fast on footpaths, ringing their bells trying to force people off the path and onto the road.. I could go on and on

    • I’ve seen all of that. The texting while riding a bicycle can be pretty bad. One was going down the hill at around 30 km/h and texting on a sidewalk. Another was riding with 2 children on her bicycle while she was texting. She was weaving back and forth.

      Next time I’m nearly hit by a car, I’ll just stand there and not move. They will wait while I stare at them.

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