Dear Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Akihiro Ota,
I recently attended the induction ceremony for one of my children at a local elementary school. We listened to various speeches, one of which was of particular interest: A traffic police officer spoke at length about the hazards faced by children as they travel to and from school.
He mentioned the fact that Nagoya drivers are notorious for disobeying traffic laws and generally being discourteous (Aichi is often cited as one of the worst prefectures in Japan for road accidents). The officer went on to explain that drivers often use cell phones, read paraphernalia and generally drive recklessly, paying little or no heed to traffic signs. This is readily apparent as I see drivers speed past our front gate at speeds that wouldn’t be permitted on the highway. Our house is situated on an otherwise quiet back street.
The officer told us to remind our children to pay attention when crossing the road. I found this solution to be of little use, because no matter how often parents try to instill road sense in kids, their little heads are focused more on catching their friends or a wayward ball than watching out for speeding cars. In addition, drivers intent on running a red light to save a few seconds are likely to pay scant regard to children playing ball at the side of the street..
These days, cars are so quiet that it is difficult at times to know whether or not the engine is running. Drivers, too, do not have the same sensation of travelling at speed as they once did.
In addition to the suffering caused by the tragedy of losing a loved one in an accident, there is also a very real cost to the economy. It is imperative that a solution to this problem be found, and we cannot simply rely on children or drivers to alter their ways overnight.
One answer, therefore, would be to introduce speed bumps on all roads in the vicinity of elementary schools. This takes the responsibility out of the hands of both drivers and children and forces drivers to slow their cars in certain areas. Speed bumps are simply bumps in the road, typically between 7 and 10 cm in height, made from recycled plastic, rubber, asphalt or metal. They are a cheap way to ensure that motorists drive within speed limits and, should any accidents occur, damage is kept to a minimum.
Some people claim that speed bumps slow the response time of emergency vehicles. However, since they would be used primarily on minor roads where many schools are situated, they would have little or no adverse effect on such vehicles. In addition, I used to teach English at the regional police academy, and when I mentioned the fact that many countries now successfully use speed bumps as a means of improving road safety, a large number of the cadets stated that they would like to see them implemented in Japan.
A great deal of money in Japan is spent on grand concrete structures, built in the middle of nowhere, seemingly serving little or no purpose. Speed bumps are cheap, easy to install and guaranteed to save lives and boost the economy.
As a parent, I believe we have a moral duty to ensure that we do everything in our power to ensure that our children do not become another government statistic. How many more deaths will it take before the government sits up and takes notice?
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