KASUGAI, AICHI PREF. – An Aichi high school has launched a “cyclist’s license” that it is crediting with eliminating traffic accidents involving its students.
The system was dreamed up by Kasugai Technical High School in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, which logged the highest number of traffic fatalities in the nation last year.
Kasugai Tech usually logs several student cycling accidents each year, but in 2011, the first full year since the licensing system started, there were none at all.
Aichi had 225 traffic fatalities last year, the most among the 47 prefectures. This year, the prefecture is on course to stay No. 1 with 78 fatalities as of April.
Hiromasa Nakashima, a teacher involved in student guidance, says about 90 percent of the students commute by bicycle. He said the staff decided to change tactics after their spoken instructions on traffic safety fell on deaf ears.
“This did not work,” Nakashima, 45, said. “Our students had little interest in the subject.”
The school, however, received a wakeup call in April 2010 when a third-year student collided head on with an automobile at an intersection without a traffic signal, leaving the student, who was on his way to school, in critical condition. The cause was officially deemed failure on both sides to make a brief stop at the crossing.
After serious talks on how to protect students from traffic accidents, teachers concluded a mock licensing system should be introduced for cyclists.
The system, which began in November 2010 and was initially geared toward first-year students, involves tests and practical examinations held during the holidays at a local driving school. Those who fail the tests are denied a license and banned from commuting by bicycle.
The students attend classroom lectures where they are taught about traffic rules and the most dangerous places to bike around the school. The paper tests consist of 20 questions on traffic rules and street signs. The practical exams test students on important points, such as stopping at intersections with poor visibility and looking behind to check when passing around parked vehicles.
The paper and practical exams are worth 50 points each. A score of at least 80 is needed to pass.
“The exams look authentic at the driving school, and everybody gets very serious,” Nakashima said.
The cyclist’s license carries a mug shot of the students along with their name and birth date. The license can be suspended for a week if the bearer breaks the traffic rules, such as by riding double or riding with an open umbrella.
Second-year student Hidenori Kotani, 16, saw the exams as a nuisance until he got his license.
“Now I realize that I should not cause an accident,” he said.
The police praised the school’s efforts.
“A good understanding of the rules leads to a reduction in the number of accidents,” said Sumikiyo Sumino, head of the traffic division at the Niigata Prefectural Police’s Kasugai station.
Mie teacher suspended
An assistant teacher at a junior high school in Inabe, Mie Prefecture, was suspended Wednesday over a hit-and-run accident last month involving a student on a bicycle, the prefectural board of education said. The teacher resigned the same day.
On April 20, the assistant teacher’s car hit the boy as he was crossing an intersection near the school.
After realizing the boy was lying on the road, the teacher fled the scene “out of fear of losing his job,” the board of education said.