• Chunichi Shimbun

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Policewomen in Aichi Prefecture, which has had the highest number of traffic fatalities nationwide for the past 14 years, have teamed up to offer safety seminars for elderly people, children and others who are often the victims of such accidents.

The team, named Ayumi and established in 2003, includes 24-year-old Maiko Sato, its youngest member, who joined at the end of last year.

Speaking in public wasn’t her strongest suit. But Sato became more determined at her job after her 22-year-old brother was severely injured when a car hit his motorbike two months before she began her current post. He was hospitalized for about two months.

“Even if it is a street that you’re familiar with, remember to stop, look and wait,” Sato said during a lecture to 70 elderly residents in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, last month.

“If a family member tells you that your driving skills are deteriorating, decide rationally whether you should voluntarily give up your license.”

Sato uses skits to add humor to her lectures and talks with passion about ways to walk and ride bicycles safely.

As a young girl, Sato always looked up to traffic officers with their white motorcycles.

She joined the police force after graduating from high school in April 2011. After working in the traffic division and a neighborhood police box, she was transferred to Ayumi in November last year.

The job of the 12-member team is to visit schools and nursing homes to share ways to prevent traffic accidents, using skits and other methods.

Despite having little experience speaking in public, let alone acting, Sato was determined to help reduce the number of accidents on local roads.

After she was transferred to Ayumi, there was little time to prepare. But over the next few months, Sato slowly polished her public speaking skills.

“The thing I like about this job is I can convey my thoughts to people directly. I hope I can contribute to reducing the number of accidents, even if it is only by one, by letting them know what to look out for,” she said.

Ayumi’s leader, Lt. Mie Tanaka, said Sato has had a positive influence on the team.

“(Sato) is energetic and passionate. People have praised her for giving explanations that are easy to understand, and the whole team is motivated by her,” Tanaka said.

According to Aichi Prefectural Police, the prefecture recorded 12 traffic fatalities last month, the lowest-ever for January since records started in 1966. The second-lowest was 14 deaths in 2012.

By prefecture, Ibaraki had the highest number last month, at 16, followed by Chiba and Hyogo, both with 14.

Aichi was sixth on the list, with five of the 12 victims aged 65 and above. All five were hit by cars close to their homes as they were crossing the street, either by foot or on a bicycle.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Jan. 18.

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