January-June deaths in Japan expressway accidents soar

JIJI

Traffic fatalities on expressways soared 24.1 percent from a year before to 108 in January-June, rising for the second straight year, data compiled by police showed Thursday.

In the first half of 2012, the number of fatal accidents on expressways grew 25.0 percent to 95 cases, also logging the second consecutive rise, the National Police Agency said.

About half of those accidents were caused by freight vehicles, particularly midsize and large trucks, with rear-end accidents jumping 1.8-fold to 29 cases.

“Drivers have become less cautious about high-speed driving on expressways,” said an official of the agency.

Meanwhile, 26 people were struck and killed outside their vehicles on expressways.

Many victims did not use road flares or warning reflectors when they got out of their vehicles after experiencing trouble, the police agency found.

The agency also said overall traffic deaths during the six-month period fell 8.4 percent to 1,934, down for the 12th straight year.

A record 50.7 percent of all deaths, or 981 people, were aged 65 or older.

By prefecture, 105 people, the largest figure, died in traffic accidents in Aichi, followed by 97 in Saitama and 82 in Hokkaido. The lowest death toll, 11, was in Fukui, followed by 12 in Tokushima.