Traffic > Gridlock

How Japanese drivers treat pedestrians

A stroll around Ginza in Tokyo imparts a simple motoring lesson

Pedestrian crosswalks in Japan are prominently visible. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

So we’re back in Japan for the 45th Tokyo Motor Show. On our first night, as per usual, we step out of the hotel and go for a walk to see the neighborhood. The place is Ginza, an upscale shopping district in Tokyo. As such, the area is teeming with people, both tourists and locals, going around on foot.

You’d think a location like this would look like Midtown Manhattan in New York, where cars and humans clash in one chaotic scene straight out of a Woody Allen film. In a sense, yes, it does, but Ginza’s pedestrian crosswalks still manage to look like this…

When the light turns green, you won't find a car fender blocking the crosswalk. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Yep. Walkers can freely cross the street without fear of getting grazed by a speeding SUV. That’s because Japanese drivers treat the pedestrian lane as a sacred part of the road.

Cars stop well ahead of crosswalks. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

There aren’t even traffic officers in sight to force drivers to follow the rules. Motorists are simply educated and disciplined. And it doesn’t matter whether there are pedestrians crossing or not.

Japanese drivers are well-behaved even when no one is watching. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

And if you think only dorky Japanese drivers are law-abiding, you’re mistaken. Even those who own sporty cars respect pedestrians.

You think Japanese drivers who own cool cars act like entitled douchebags? Wrong. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Plus, no need for traffic lights to tell drivers to stop. Even crosswalks without traffic lights are treated with the highest regard.

Okay, this one excited dude goes over the line a little bit. But he still won't touch the crosswalk. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Don’t you just wish we could all practice this in the Philippines?

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist for 26 years. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.