• Kyodo

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The use of English-language traffic signs will spread next year to stem the rise in accidents involving foreign drivers as tourism continues to grow at a record-breaking pace.

The National Police Agency unveiled design proposals for stop and slow-down signs in Japanese and English on Thursday and plans to start using them from next July after assessing public feedback.

The number of people visiting Japan broke 20 million for the first time during the first 10 months of the year.

Not surprisingly, foreign drivers were linked to 216 traffic accidents that caused injury or death in 2015, up from 178 in 2012. With more non-Japanese expected to visit ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the NPA is hoping the new bilingual signs will help rental car drivers better conform with traffic rules.

Japan’s conventional stop sign, adopted in 1963, is an inverted triangle instead of the octagon widely used around the world. Inverted triangles are used for yield, or give way, signs in many countries.

Concerned that the difference could confuse foreign drivers, the NPA solicited ideas for a new one from foreigners, journalists and university professors, among others. Popular tourist spots may get priority for the rollout.

Given that Japan has around 1.7 million stop signs and 1,000 slow-down signs, the NPA said, replacement is expected to take more than a decade.

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