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Driving or commuting by rail in Japan is a beautiful, clean and efficient experience.

日本の運転経験 The Japanese driving experience

The first thing to notice about Japanese roads is not just that they are smaller, but rather that all the roads are very clean. image Every road has excellent signs and even side street - viewing - mirrors where necessary. The road crews are very well dressed and equipped for necessary jobs. Everyone is dressed in the appropriate safety uniform.

Traffic accidents are not common here, but the police, ambulance and fire trucks are readily available, even if you never see them. This does not mean that it is ok to autobahn your vehicle, because just like the autobahn, high speed traffic cameras will mail your ticket home. The roads are seriously well maintained!

If you intend to drive while in Japan with an international license from AAA continue reading. First of all, because driving is done on the left side of the road, do not attempt to drive as soon as you arrive there. Note: the subways and trains are extremely efficient for getting around, especially between the cities. First, allow yourself to become familiar and comfortable while being driven by someone else, because even though the signs and road markings are very good, making a left turn can still be intimidating.

If you are worried about not being able to read Japanese road signs, not to worry - almost all the road signs are English/Japanese. But be aware that the stop signs are not the usual octagon shape sign, but instead a red triangle.

The Japanese people tend to drive very small vehicles which still get the job done well without compromising safety perceptions. Remember, the roads are smaller therefore, parking spaces are also smaller. When angle parking, observe that everyone backs into the space. Don't worry about hitting something behind you, there are wheel stoppers if you back up too much.

The Tokyo subway station is probably the largest subway system in the world. But despite its large size getting around is easy once have your ticket and understand how to use the multiple maps that are available. image Once again, almost every sign includes instructions in English. It is interesting how prevalent English really is in Japan. English is everywhere. It's on the busses, trucks, trains - shinkansen, hotels, supermarkets, and shopping malls. As a matter of fact, the more upscale the store or shopping center, the more likely it is for all the signs to be in English. Hotel reservations may be the one exception.

Compared with Islands

In Japan the Police (keikan) allow people to drive without checking every corner for their presence. This is also true in Germany, but drivers are very leery about speed cameras.

Compared with USA

Because reshaping or changing learned driving behavior is difficult, please read -Safer Driving Ideas below for how to make the roads safer for all of the USA.

Compare with Germany

Germans own much more powerful vehicles and often drive much faster, probably due to wider roads that are not often interrupted by large mountain ranges and tunnels.

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Here is an intersting sign seen at a local train station. This means women only can ocupy cars with the red seats ( red for women and blue for men is standard in Japan.

Safer driving ideas
Because reshaping or changing learned driving behavior is difficult, here are some suggestions on how to make the roads safer for all of us: Drivers will avoid tailgating when the road does not allow room for illegally passing left of the center lines. This can be achieved by erecting semi-flexible and removable - highly visible poles between the double yellow lines. This still allow commercial vehicles to use the entire road while discouraging aggressive driving behavior because they act like rumble strips.

Next, on rural roads where there are single lanes only, allow interval passing zones of slower vehicles by widening the road for the passing zone.

Remove the red light cameras and replace them with speeding cameras. This should be accompanied by reducing the speed limit (about 125 feet before) at the same intersections where it was necessary to erect red light cameras. This will reduce the number of rear end collisions at these same intersections.

Also, drivers won't feel as victimized by the system when being ticketed for passing the red light since a reduction in speed was posted prior to being ticked for speeding through the intersection. Unless you have a GPS camera warning system, red light camera tickets are often a surprise to most drivers.

If suggestion number (3) is not satisfactory enough then equip the cameras to ticket for speeding through the intersection and also for running the red light. This way no one thinks about beating the system.

It is human nature to want everything larger. This includes automobiles. There should be an added tax for vehicles based on engine displacement/power. There must also be an incentive other than the environment and saving gas for purchasing smaller vehicles.

So, in addition to HOV privilege, smaller vehicles may be relieved of paying the standard toll price, after all, these vehicles have less impact on the road and so incurs less road repairs. Infact, automobiles should be 'price-tolled' based solely on vehicle type: sedan, crossover, minivan, SUV, bus or truck. This should become standardized andposted at toll booths for drivers to see prior to paying the toll. And, finally, state inspection on smaller vehicles should cost less due to reduced lift cost owing to less weight.

It is not what we drive that makes us safe - check out Japan, but rather our respect for other users of the road and an understanding that driving should not be perceived as a combat activity.