At around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, March 19, on the Haneda Route of the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway in Minato-ku, Tokyo, a motorcycle traveling in the left lane came into contact with a passenger car that had changed lanes from the overtaking lane. The rider, who was thrown into the opposite lane, was hit by a truck and died in the accident. The cause of the accident was said to be an oversight of the motorcycle by the passenger car.
Why do these accidents happen? My own feeling about serious motorcycle accidents on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway that are covered in the news is that they happen several times a year. What should we do to ride safely on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway?
The Metropolitan Expressway is the most dangerous road in Japan!?
According to the Metropolitan Expressway Driver's Website, accidents involving two-wheeled vehicles account for only around 2% of all accidents on the expressway, but they are 16 times more likely to result in death or injury than accidents involving non-motorcycles. In other words, the number of motorcycle accidents on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway is not particularly high, but once an accident occurs, the probability of it leading to a fatality is extremely high.
According to the above website, serious accidents involving motorcycles include "self-inflicted damage on curves," "rear-end collisions during emergency braking," and "collisions at junctions," with the main causes cited as "excessive speed" and "not being seen by other vehicles. We don't know the details of this accident either, but if it was caused by "oversight", then the motorcycle may have happened to be in the blind spot of the passenger car.
Why is the Metropolitan Expressway so dangerous?
I was curious, so I searched for articles on the Internet and found that many people, both 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers, say that the Metropolitan Expressway is scary and difficult to ride, with the most notable reasons being "many sharp curves," "many merges," "few escape zones," and "low sidewalls. Some riders, in particular, say that the road surface is bad and they are afraid of slipping at the seams. The C1 (Central Circular Route) is particularly notorious.
I often use the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway, and I have the impression that the C1 is just like that. In addition, the amount of information such as signs indicating the destination of branching and merging may be too much and confusing. Now I have a navigation system, but I still feel that I am too busy to pay attention to the safety of my surroundings.
There is only so much a human being can do at one time, and it is difficult to process in parallel like a computer. Driving on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway is a great psychological pressure in itself.
Many accidents occur at curves and JCTs.
As I have mentioned in my column, there have been a number of serious motorcycle accidents on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway in the past; in February 2012, cooking researcher Kentaro was riding his large motorcycle on the Metropolitan Expressway late at night when he failed to complete a turn at the Gaien exit, climbed over the sidewall, and fell six meters to the ground, suffering a serious head fracture. He was seriously injured.
Also recently, in June 2019, professional wrestler Atsushi Aoki died in a single-vehicle accident in which he collided with a sidewall on a curve near Kitanomaru Park on the C1 outer bound. And the actual data shows that most of the accidents on the Metropolitan Expressway occur on curved sections, including junctions (JCTs).
The Metropolitan Expressway was not an "expressway".
In the first place, the Metropolitan Expressway is not an motorway, but a motorway. It is positioned as an urban motorway in the six metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Kitakyushu. That's why the aforementioned C1 (Central Circular Route) is limited to 50km/h, and the relatively recently built Wangan Route is set at 80km/h. In the first place, it is not designed to be able to fly at 100km/h like Tomei and Meishin.
There is a reason why the Metropolitan Expressway is in this situation. According to the aforementioned Metropolitan Expressway Driver's Site, "There are many sharp curves because the expressway was constructed in a dense urban area while using public land.
In addition, "the behavior of vehicles on curves becomes unstable not only due to joints but also due to weather conditions such as wind, and there have been accidents involving collisions with curve walls due to excessive speed. The company strongly recommends that drivers slow down in front of curves and ride at a speed that ensures safety.
The Metropolitan Expressway was originally built as a rush job in time for the last Tokyo Olympics. It would have been unthinkable at the time that the automobile society would have developed in the way it has today, 60 years later.
Still, the Metropolitan Expressway is great.
In conclusion, you should be well aware of the risks of the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway before driving. Especially at night, in the rain, or in the middle of winter, when the road surface and other conditions are poor, you may choose not to drive as much as possible.
For your reference, the aforementioned Metropolitan Expressway Driver's Website has a "Know It All! The video shows how to drive safely on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway using an in-car camera. You'll also be able to experience the realism of difficult merges and bends as the locations are actually shown.
However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway is also a wonderful place. The C1, for example, is often avoided, but with its futuristic city-like scenery lined with skyscrapers and the Imperial Palace with its cherry blossoms dancing in the air, you'll feel like you're taking a walk in the air as you enjoy the sights of Tokyo. When the season is right, you can enjoy a leisurely ride and take in the view of one of the world's most developed metropolises. If you are not confident, it is recommended to drive a car at first and gradually get used to the way of driving on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway.