Japan Data

Continuing Bicycle-Pedestrian Accidents Lead to Smartphone-Use Convictions


The overall number of bicycle accidents is on the decrease; however, there has been much less of a drop in accidents where pedestrians are injured by bicycles.

According to the National Police Agency, traffic accidents involving bicycles rose by 430 cases from the previous year to 90,407 in 2017. A breakdown of the figures shows that overwhelmingly accidents were caused by cars, with 76,036 cases recorded. However, the number of accidents where pedestrians were injured by bicycles rose by 269 cases to 2,550.

Due to the fact no driving license or training is required, anyone can easily use a bicycle, people have no awareness that they can become perpetrators and there are an endless number of cases where cyclists ignore the rules and cause accidents.

The total number of traffic accidents in 2017 was 472,165 cases, a huge drop from 2004, when accidents peaked at 952,720. A total of 3,694 fatalities occurred, the lowest number recorded since the National Police Agency began collecting data 48 years ago. In the 10 years from 2007, accidents involving bicycles have also greatly fallen. Of total traffic accidents though, the proportion of bicycle-related accidents remains around 20%.

And of those bicycle-related accidents, there has only been a small decrease in the number of bicycle accidents where pedestrians have been injured. The rate rose from 1.7% to 2.8% between 2007 and 2017. In December 2017, a university student was cycling through a shopping district in Kawasaki, a beverage in her right hand and using her smartphone with her left, when she hit and fatally injured a pedestrian. On August 27, 2018, Yokohama District Court’s Kawasaki Branch ruled on a two-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, for the student. Presiding Judge Emi Ken’ichi remarked that “The defendant was grossly negligent in riding without being aware that she could kill or injure a pedestrian.” A similar case occurred in June 2018 with a university student who was using a smartphone while cycling when he hit and killed a man walking in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. This shows that raising safety awareness for people using bicycles is an urgent matter.

Many bicycle-pedestrian accidents involve cyclists under 25 and elderly pedestrians aged 65 or over. In 2015, the Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis published a report pointing out that there are few pedestrian violations and instead injuries and fatalities are unilaterally caused by lack of awareness by cyclists.

ITARDA also found that approximately 40% of accidents occur on sidewalks, where pedestrians should have priority, in the mornings and evenings when people are commuting to and from work and school. The cause is thought to be cyclists not watching out in front of them and not leaving enough space when passing pedestrians.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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