• Kyodo

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Traffic accident deaths in the nation fell to a record low of 2,839 in 2020, a government report showed Tuesday, reflecting a decline in road traffic as people refrained from nonessential outings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number was the lowest since comparable data became available in 1948, according to the latest white paper on traffic safety approved by the Cabinet.

The government’s requests for people to stay at home during repeatedly declared state of emergencies are likely to have helped reduce traffic deaths, a government official said.

Although the death toll has significantly fallen from its 1970 peak of 16,765, it is still short of the government’s target — set in 2016 for 2020 and onward — of keeping the figure below 2,500.

The share of the death toll accounted for by people age 65 and older continued to grow, reaching 56.2% in 2020. The percentage was the biggest since breakdowns by age first became available in 1966.

The distance traveled by vehicles began falling in April 2020 when a state of emergency was first declared in the country to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In monthly terms, August saw the sharpest drop of 29% to 197 during the second wave of infections.

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