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Japan's traffic accident deaths drop to record low in 2020

A police car in Japan. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's traffic deaths dropped to a record low of 2,839 in 2020, falling below 3,000 for the first time since comparable data became available in 1948, the National Police Agency said Monday.

    The number of fatalities decreased by 376 from the previous year, partly due to strengthened traffic regulations and enhanced safety performance of vehicles, the agency said. The figure stood at nearly one-sixth its peak of 16,765 in 1970.

    A total of 309,000 traffic accidents were confirmed in 2020, with 368,601 people injured, the agency said.

    Among Japan's 47 prefectures, Tokyo had the largest number of deaths at 155, according to the agency. An official of the Metropolitan Police Department said more drivers were speeding since the novel coronavirus pandemic caused a decline in vehicle traffic, citing it as a factor behind the increased fatal accidents in Tokyo.

    The death toll among people aged 65 and older fell 186 from the previous year, but the figure accounted for 56.2 percent of total traffic deaths, according to the agency.

    Road fatalities peaked in 1970 when Japan had much fewer traffic lights and road signs, but the figure has dropped due to stricter law enforcement and improved road conditions.

    With a rise in the number of vehicle owners and drivers, traffic deaths again exceeded the 10,000 mark in 1988 before declining again due to more extensive safety education for inexperienced drivers.

    The previous record-low number of deaths was 3,215 in 2019, reported by the agency last year.

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