Japanese driving courtesy

Can Courtesy Keep You Safe On The Road?

Courtesy is a hallmark of Japanese culture. It’s hard to think of Japan without the vision of hyper-polite citizens bowing to each other. One theory of Japanese etiquette is that it developed long ago to deal with the problems of a very large population living and working in a very small country. Along with courtesy, there’s also a strict adherence to society’s rules. This led me to wonder if Japanese courtesy and adherence to the rules extended to the roadways and how Japanese drivers compare with those in the US.

Japan is a tiny country. Japan’s 145,925 square miles – slightly smaller than Montana – make up less than four percent of the total land area in the US. In order to compare the two countries, we have to look at population density. The US with its wide open spaces has a population density of only 88.6 people per square mile. Japan’s population density, by contrast, is 873.1 people per square mile. That makes for very crowded conditions.

Out of all the nations in the world, the US has the greatest number of registered vehicles on the road. That may not come as a great surprise but the country with the second greatest number of registered vehicles is Japan. The US has 846.2 registered vehicles per 1,000 people followed by Japan with 650.9 vehicles per 1,000 people. Not only is Japan a crowded country, their roads are crowded too.

With that many vehicles in such a small space, you might think that Japan would have a high roadway death rate but that isn’t the case. When comparing the highway fatality rate of the two nations, the figures look like this:

Country

Fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants

Fatalities per 10,000 vehicles

Japan

4.1

0.6

US

11.6

1.3

According to The International Transportation Forum, in 2012, the total highway fatality rate in  each country was:

Country

Total fatalities

Percent change from 2011

Japan

5,237*

-4.9

US

33,561

+3.3%

*Out of all the highway deaths in Japan, 36% were pedestrians.

When you think of the US, you tend to think of a fast paced life style but Japan’s society is every bit as fast paced, if not more so.

When comparing speeding between the two countries:

  • In the US in 2012 speeding was responsible for 30% of all fatalities with 10,219 lives lost in speed related crashes; an increase of two percent over 2011.
  • In Japan, between 2002 and 2012, the number of crashes outside the motorway network involving speeds above 100 km/h (62 mph) decreased by 82%.

Could it be that the Japanese sense of courtesy and adherence to societal rules is responsible for the large difference in highway death rates? If Americans were just as courteous and law abiding on the roads, could we drastically reduce our highway death rates? There’s only one way to find out.

UK DUI Limit Test

DUI Limit Lowered By Scotland and Lithuania

The DUI limit has been lowered in Scotland and Lithuania in conformance with the DUI laws in most of the rest of western Europe. Scotland lowered its DUI limit from .08 down to .05. Lithuania, which already had a general DUI limit of .04, lowered its DUI limit down to .02 for novice and commercial drivers.

A lot of Americans view Europe as having a lax attitude toward alcohol and that may be the case in certain countries but when it comes to drinking and driving, Europe has a low tolerance level. In fact, some of the old Eastern Bloc nations, including Russia, have a DUI limit of .00 or .01.

Most of the western European nations have long since adopted a DUI limit of .05. When Switzerland lowered its DUI limits from .08 to .05 in 2005, they experienced a 44% drop in alcohol related highway deaths. England and Wales remain the only western European nations with a DUI limit of .08 and their governments are being pressured to lower their DUI limits to at least .05.

Many safety advocates in the US are calling for a lower DUI limit to at least .05. Studies have shown that a driver’s abilities can be affected by just one drink. Safe driving advocates in the US have long been spreading the word that “buzzed driving is impaired driving.”

Even with the US DUI limit of .08, many drivers are surprised to learn that they can still be arrested for DUI with a lower limit if field sobriety tests show that their abilities are impaired.

Read more: Scotland and Lithuania lower drink drive limit

Ants

Ants Can Do It, Why Can’t We?

Ants, even when moving in large swarms seem to handle traffic, prevent traffic jams, and keep traffic flowing smoothly much better than humans can.

Physicist Apoorva Nagar at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology working on previous work by a group of German and Indian scientists has written a soon to be published paper on this phenomenon. The German and Indian scientist’s work showed that ants traveling in a line were able to move steadily and at a constant speed without bunching up. Nagar was able to show mathematically why large groups of ants seem to be able to move so steadily without causing a traffic jam.

According to Nagar, the reasons ants don’t jam up are:

  • They don’t have egos; they don’t feel the need to pass everyone else.
  • If there is a blockage, they don’t stop to rubberneck; they just keep moving steadily around the blockage.
  • They seem to become more disciplined when the path narrows; they move in a straighter line and vary their speed less.

These are basic concepts in traffic flow management that many humans seem incapable of grasping. It’s hard to convince drivers that maintaining a longer following distance and traveling at a steady speed, even if that means going slower than the speed limit, will keep traffic moving smoothly and actually get them to their destination faster. It’s for this reason that advocates of self driving cars are hoping that, when the cars take over driving, traffic jams will be a thing of the past.

We have written on this issue before and have posted videos that explain why traffic jams occur and how to avoid them but they bear repeating.

Read more: Why Ants Handle Traffic Better Than You Do

Traffic Jam without bottleneck – experimental evidence

Traffic Waves

 

How To Handle A Traffic Stop

For cops, there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop. For Albuquerque (NM) Police Officer Lou Golson, this traffic stop started out like a thousand other traffic stops but, as the video above shows, this stop was anything but routine.

As a traffic school instructor I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the conduct of police officers during traffic stops but, from the perspective of law enforcement officers, they never know how the situation may turn out and they must always be on guard during a traffic stop. As the person who’s being stopped, you may be angry but the police officer is understandably fearful. When a driver who has been stopped is belligerent or argumentative, the officer on the scene is going to reply in kind.

It’s important for the driver who has been stopped to think about what’s happening from the perspective of the police officer. If a police officer is directing you to pull over, signal for a turn to the right, then move over to the right side of the road and pull over in a way that gives you plenty of clearance between you and the traffic on the road. Pulling far to the right is both for your safety and the safety of the officer.

It’s common for a driver who’s been pulled over to immediately start reaching for their driver’s license or to look in the glove compartment for their vehicle registration. The police officer who sees this activity doesn’t know if you are reaching for your registration or a gun. He or she will be automatically on guard. Once you’ve pulled over, roll down your window and place your hands in clear view on the steering wheel. Don’t try to reach for anything until you’ve been directed to by the officer.

Always wait for and follow the officers directions. When the officer asks for your license and registration, let the officer know that you’ll need to reach for your wallet, purse, or into the glove compartment to get it. You’re nervous but he’s even more nervous; don’t make any quick movements. Communicating openly with the officer will make everything go much more smoothly.

Don’t try to argue with the officer or offer excuses; he or she has already heard them all. The officer often has discretion to issue a warning or give a ticket for a lesser offense; the more cooperative you are, the better the chance that the officer will exercise that discretion.

Another danger involved in a traffic stop is failure of other drivers to obey the “Move Over Law”. If the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle, follow the officer’s directions about where to go and stand. The video below shows why you shouldn’t stand close to the roadway or between the vehicles.

Top Safety Rating

More Cars Earn Top Safety Rating In 2015

The top safety rating given by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was earned by even more cars in the 2015 model year than were awarded in the 2014 model year.  While more vehicles went on to win the top safety later in the year, by this time last year, only 39 vehicles had won the rating compared to 71 this year.

The top safety rating was won by more cars in spite of the fact that the IIHS increased the testing criteria in 2012, requiring the small overlap crash test in addition to the front end and side crash tests. The small overlap test crash tests duplicates common crashes where a smaller portion of the front end strikes an object such as a bridge abutment or light pole. After the introduction of the small overlap tests, initially, fewer cars were able to pass the test because manufacturers had designed car frames to absorb the impact of a full front end collision but not necessarily a crash on the front side. Designers had to go back and strengthen the side of the frame and the front door pillar to better protect the occupant space.

According to the IIHS, in order to win the top safety rating, “a vehicle must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test.”

In addition to the top safety rating, vehicles may also earn a top safety (+) rating if they score “a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.” Front crash prevention includes passive systems that use sonar or cameras to warn a driver of a possible crash situation ahead or active systems that actually apply the brakes to avoid a possible crash.

For 2015, 33 vehicles were awarded the top safety + rating if the manufacturer offered the front crash prevention system as an option. Four models (all Volvos) included the front crash prevention system as standard equipment.

To see which vehicles earned the top safety rating, read: 2015 Top Safety Picks

Photo courtesy: IIHS