Japan Data

Annual Traffic Fatalities in Japan Reach Record Low


A new record low for traffic facilities was set in 2018. But further improvements in safety will be needed to reach the government’s goal of fewer than 2,500 fatalities in 2020.

The number of traffic fatalities in Japan totaled 3,532 in 2018, a decrease of 162 fatalities compared to the previous year and a record low since statistics were first kept in 1948. The figure averages out to 2.79 fatalities per 100,000 persons, which is only around one sixth of the 1970 peak.

The number of traffic fatalities in Japan rose sharply from the 1950s into the 1960s as the use of automobiles spread widely, leading to the coining of the term kōtsū sensō (traffic war). The figure peaked in 1970 at 16,765 deaths. There was a steady decline in traffic-related deaths from that point on as a result of such measures as protecting pedestrians by installing guardrails and introducing more severe punishments for traffic violations.

The number of traffic accidents continued to increase along with the rising number of cars on the road, reaching a high point in 2004 of 952,720 accidents. Despite this rise, fatalities showed an overall decline due to measures to improve driving safety, such as making seatbelts in front seats mandatory on highways in 1985 and on all roads in 1992, and the rapid expansion of vehicles equipped with airbags, starting from around the middle of the 1990s. The recent equipping of vehicles with preventative safety technologies such as collision avoidance systems and lane departure prevention systems also seems to have been effective in reducing fatalities, while accidents themselves have fallen significantly over the past decade.

The number of traffic fatalities involving those aged 65 or older fell by 54 deaths year-on-year in 2018, to 1,966 in total. But the proportion of total fatalities in that age bracket compared with the overall number of traffic fatalities rose by one percentage point to 55.7%. The government is aiming to reduce annual traffic fatalities below 2,500 by the year 2020, so it will be necessary to introduce further measures to safeguard the lives of elderly drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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