The number of traffic deaths nationwide in 2018 fell by 162, or 4.4 percent, from the previous year to 3,532, hitting the lowest level since data became available in 1948, the National Police Agency said Friday.
The decrease reflected police efforts to step up traffic safety education programs and crack down on traffic offenses, the agency said.
The annual number of traffic deaths peaked at 16,765 in 1970 before falling gradually. The government aims to reduce the figure to 2,500 or less by 2020.
The 2018 data showed that among people 65 or older, traffic deaths dropped by 54, or 2.7 percent, to 1,966 on a preliminary basis, slipping below 2,000 for the first time since 1985, when the figure stood at 1,957.
But the share of elderly victims in the total grew 1 point to 55.7 percent, hitting its highest level since statistics became available in 1967.
Traffic deaths per 100,000 people fell to 2.79 for all ages and to 5.59 for people 65 or older.
By prefecture, Aichi topped the death toll list for the 16th consecutive year, with 189, followed by Chiba with 186, and Saitama with 175.
Fukui saw the highest death toll per 100,000 people at 5.26, followed by Toyama at 5.11, and Mie at 4.83.
The number of traffic accidents that left three or more people dead totaled 10, including a crash involving three motorcycles that killed six teenagers in Nara in August.
According to the NPA, the country had fewer traffic accidents and injuries in 2018, at 430,345 and 524,695, respectively, based on preliminary data.