Stopping at a crosswalk is a strict rule.
The other day, another rider's precious life was lost in a tragic rear-end collision. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, a truck rear-ended a stationary motorcycle on a one-lane road in Hino City, Tokyo, at around 5 p.m. on April 14, killing a man in his 60s who was riding the motorcycle underneath the truck. The motorcycle was stopped waiting for a pedestrian trying to cross the street. The male truck driver, 30, who was arrested on the spot, said, "I noticed the pedestrians, but I didn't notice the motorcycle.
In the first place, if a pedestrian is about to cross the street, the vehicle must stop and give way. This is a rule strictly enshrined in the Road Traffic Law. According to a survey conducted by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), only about 20% of vehicles stop when a pedestrian is about to cross a pedestrian crossing (without a traffic signal). About 80% of vehicles do not stop.
Even if you stop, there's no guarantee that the vehicle behind you will stop.
Normally, even in the city, we often see vehicles passing in front of pedestrians who are trying to cross the street at high speed. Around 5 p.m., when the accident occurred, it was still light in this season, and if you were driving normally, there was no way you would have missed the motorcycle that was stopped. If it was a car that was stopped, he might have stepped on the brake. There is no denying the possibility that he was driving while looking at his phone.
The scary thing is that even if you can stop, there is no guarantee that the car behind you will stop. In such a situation, stopping in front of a pedestrian crossing without a signal is nothing but fear. I don't need to tell you what would happen if a bare motorcycle was rear-ended by a car, a mass of several tons of steel.
A rear-end collision can happen to anyone at any time.
I have actually been rear-ended myself. I was driving on a one-lane prefectural road, and right after I slowed down and stopped at a traffic light, I felt a thump from behind. When I looked back, I saw that the hood of the sedan was wedged into the gap between the rear wheel of my motorcycle and the rear seat. I felt like I was pushed forward about a meter with the motorcycle, but it was fortunate that the impact was absorbed to some extent and I only suffered minor whiplash. I was still young, and my motorcycle was a heavyweight 750cc, so it was probably a good thing that I had the front and rear brakes on. Above all, it was fortunate that the speed of the following vehicle that hit me was low.
I also had a near miss incident while touring about 10 years ago. Immediately after stopping at a traffic light on a main road near Hakone, I heard a skirting sound of squealing tires as a car passed me at high speed right next to me and stopped in the middle of the intersection. It was an import sports car, but I had a bad feeling because it had been following me at a close distance right behind me for a long time, so when the light changed from green to yellow, I pulled over to the left edge of my lane and stopped right after it. If I had stopped in the middle of the lane, I would have been rear-ended and my motorcycle would have been blown away. That's how powerful the car was.
One of my acquaintances was rear-ended at the end of a traffic jam on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway, and his motorcycle was scrapped at once, and he is still suffering from the aftereffects. Rear-end collisions happen all the time.
Pullover to the left edge to stop and show your presence with the brake lights.
What should I do to avoid being rear-ended? In my case, as mentioned above, when I get a bad feeling, I try to pull over to the left side of the road and stop. Even if the following car can't stop, if you stay on the edge, it might let you through just in time.
However, there is also a problem with this: when you stop at the edge of the road, the car behind you will think you are giving way and will often pass you. This can be misinterpreted as a sign that says "go ahead," and may endanger pedestrians who are trying to cross the street. Compared to cars, motorcycles are vulnerable to traffic. It is frustrating that we can only do our best while watching the situation at the time.
Whenever I come to a stop, I always look in my rearview mirror to see what's going on behind me, and when I have enough room, I use the pumping brake to slow down while flashing my brake lights. In some cases, I even dare to flash the brake lights after stopping to show my presence. On dark night roads, he sometimes turns on his hazard lights. And I'm always on the lookout so that if something happens, I can immediately scramble to launch and avoid danger (which I may not be able to do).
Is mandatory automatic braking a ray of hope?
And even though I think I'm making various efforts, I'm still leaving it up to chance. Human beings are forgetful, uneven, and often make mistakes, and no amount of harsher penalties will eliminate accidents. There are also differences in driving ability and aptitude. Ultimately, we will have to wait for the spread of safe driving support systems such as automatic brakes (collision damage reduction brakes).
Incidentally, the installation of automatic brakes will become compulsory for new Japanese passenger cars in November 2021. I can't deny that it's a bit of a long shot, but I'd really like to see this become a top priority. This does not guarantee complete safety, but unfortunately it is the best we can hope for at the moment.