Japan's New Ways of Reducing Accidents
With their ability to transport people and things quickly from place to place, cars have made our lives much more convenient. But many precious lives have been lost in traffic accidents. Japan was no exception to this. Over 15,000 people were losing their lives every year by 1970. This prompted the Japanese government to double its efforts to cut out traffic accidents, with the aim of making Japan's roads the safest in the world. The new campaign reduced the number of accidents dramatically, and by 2009 the number of deaths on the road was down to less than 5,000. Even though there are nearly five times more cars on the road today than in 1970, there are only one-third as many traffic fatalities.
What was the secret behind this success story? One concrete measure has involved making it easier for kids to learn the rules of the road in a fun way, so they can appreciate the importance of traffic safety from a young age.
Japanese Driving Schools for Kids
One trend attracting a lot of attention in Japan these days is special driving schools just for children. The schools provide children with all the information they need to be safe on the roads, and the kids who take part get their own special "driver’s license" at the end of the course. The program at the Kids Driving Park, located in Chiba Prefecture, begins by taking the kids' photographs for a "license," then gives them a class on traffic rules. "What does the green light mean?" Go? Not quite, as the instructor points out: "The green light means it’s all right to go, but only after you check carefully to make sure it is safe." Instructors also give easy-to-understand explanations of what "One Way" or "No Entry" signs mean.
(C)Kids Driving Park
After the class, the children head out to the driving course. Junior high and senior high school students use motor-powered go-karts, while younger children (ages three and up) drive in electric-powered go-karts. In both cases, the go-karts don't move unless seatbelts are worn. The go-carts come equipped with turn signals and adjustable side mirrors. The driving course has signs just like those on real city streets, which the junior drivers have to pay careful attention to as they drive around. The instructors give instructions to the children on where to go. "Turn right at the next intersection," might be one set of instructions. Since cars drive on the left in Japan, the child first needs to indicate a right turn is being made, make sure that the light is green, and stop at the intersection. Once it is clear that no car is coming from the opposite direction, it's safe to go ahead and turn. After this test, the results are announced and those who have passed proudly receive their very own realistic-looking replica driver's license.
(C)Kids Driving Park
The Suzuka Circuit—famous as the venue for the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix—is offering a new version of its attraction that offers a fun way to learn about traffic rules, first introduced ten years ago. The "New Putti Town" facility offers kids driver’s licenses and also lets parents ride alongside their children in the role of traffic instructors, allowing the whole family to enjoy learning about traffic safety together.