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Police propose English-Japanese 'stop' signs ahead of Tokyo 2020

A bilingual "stop" sign proposed by the National Police Agency.

Looking forward to the expected spike in foreign visitors for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the National Police Agency (NPA) on Dec. 15 revealed proposed designs for "stop" and "slow" road signs written in both English and Japanese.

    A bilingual "slow" sign proposed by the National Police Agency.

    The NPA will now move to finalize the designs and revise traffic regulations to make them official.

    In November last year, the NPA began consulting with experts on the idea and considering adding English to road signs. The agency concluded that, as the shape of Japanese slow and stop signs differ significantly from those in many other countries, foreign visitors were likely not to understand them or fail to notice them. For example, in many countries stop signs are octagonal, whereas the Japanese version is triangular.

    There are some 1.7 million official stop signs across Japan, and about 1,000 slow signs. The NPA plans to begin replacing them with bilingual versions in July 2017 or after, and will post the proposed sign changes on its website from Dec. 16 to Jan. 14 next year to solicit public opinion on the designs.

    According to the agency, there were 178 traffic accidents in Japan involving a driver with an international or a foreign license in 2012, but 216 cases in 2015. In both years, there were 13 accidents caused by a driver's failure to notice a stop sign.

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