Achieving Safe Road Traffic — The Experience in Japan

Japan has experienced an enormous increase of traffic accidents as a result of the country's rapid economic growth from the late 1950s to the year 1970. Observers in the early 1960s called the proliferation of traffic accidents the “Traffic War” as the annual traffic-accident fatalities exceeded the average annual fatalities during the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894–1895; the total eventually peaked at 16,765 in 1970. Annual fatalities then declined during 1970s and fell to 8719 in 1981, thanks to the Japanese national government's comprehensive, intensive efforts to reduce the number of fatalities. This paper summarizes these initiatives, which include road facility measures, regulations and law enforcement, education, vehicle safety standards, and emergency medical care. Because the levels of car ownership and vehicle-kilometers traveled continued to increase even as organizations worked to reduce traffic safety risks, annual fatalities again trended upward starting in 1981 and reached 11,452 in 1992. Before 1992, the trend in annual fatalities always followed that of annual traffic accidents in general. After 1992, however, the annual fatality dropped while the annual number of traffic accidents actually rose. This unique pattern has roots in passive safety technology, the international enhancement of vehicle safety standards, and innovation in the emergency medical care, which have all helped save lives. This paper compares Japanese annual trends with those of other developed countries to show that Japan has recently become risen to the top level of traffic safety. In hopes of achieving an even safer traffic society in Japan, the paper summarizes the key factors for consideration.


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  • Accession Number: 01598397
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 25 2016 9:07AM