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Updated:June 1, 2018


Governor's Column (June 2018)

Traffic Accident Fatalities on the Rise

Regrettably, the number of fatalities related to road traffic accidents has been increasing in Saitama Prefecture. Previously, this trend of increasing deaths from traffic accidents was even referred to as the "Traffic War" because the death rate from these accidents exceeded Japanese casualties in the First Sino-Japanese War. In 1992, the number of traffic accident fatalities nationwide rose to over 11,000; however, the implementation of rules stipulating mandatory seat belt use when driving on general roads and the strengthening of laws and penalties for drunk driving resulted in a decrease to 3,694 incidents last year: the lowest figure ever recorded in National Police Agency statistics dating back to 1948.

Unfortunately, last year the number of traffic accident fatalities in Saitama Prefecture increased by 26 compared to the previous year, for a total of 177 cases, pushing traffic accident fatalities in Saitama Prefecture to the second highest in the nation. Furthermore, due to the continued rise of fatal traffic accidents since the beginning of 2018, Saitama has attained an undesirable ranking as the prefecture with the highest traffic accident-related death toll nationwide. Faced with this highly troubling situation, in February I declared a state of emergency with regard to rising fatal traffic accidents in an ongoing effort to call upon the residents of Saitama Prefecture to assist in preventing accidents.

An analysis of traffic accidents in Saitama Prefecture has brought the following points to light:
The overall number of traffic accidents resulting in injury or death is actually decreasing. However, the number of elderly victims (those aged 65 or over) is very high, accounting for approximately half of all incidents. Among these, pedestrians and cyclists have been revealed to be particularly at risk, representing the most vulnerable road users. When an elderly person is involved in an accident, the fatality rate is six times that of people aged less than 65. Our reflexes and sense of judgement naturally decline with the age, meaning it is especially important for elderly people to take extra precautions such as not crossing the road when they see oncoming traffic and ensuring the road remains clear on both sides while crossing the road.

Additionally, traffic accidents have been shown to occur more frequently during certain time periods: between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. During these peak danger periods it is particularly important to remember that wearing bright clothing that stands out can help to prevent you from being involved in an accident. Not only elderly people, but also younger people are encouraged to wear something light-colored and bright or carry reflective materials when walking or cycling. Meanwhile, drivers should ensure that they turn their vehicle headlights on early and make use of their high-beam headlights when appropriate. It is also crucial for drivers to be especially mindful of and considerate towards pedestrians and cyclists by driving more slowly when there are people in the vicinity.

A moment's carelessness can snatch away the precious gift of life, leaving a deep psychological scar on the hearts and minds of not only the victim's family, but everyone involved, forever changing their lives. For this reason, I would like to ask everyone in Saitama Prefecture for their assistance in reducing the incidence of traffic accidents by taking extra care to neither cause, nor be the cause of an accident.

Kiyoshi Ueda
Kiyoshi Ueda