What do you do when you’re branded, and you know you’re a pretty decent driver?
Japan has been really hard at work in preparation for the Olympic Games, and a whole slew of changes have been made in an attempt to help tourists adapt, from a revision in map icons to lifting the restrictions on tattooed bathers.
One more way the nation is bracing for an influx of tourists is by reviewing road safety. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport is working in coordination with police, tourism boards, and car rental associations, and by analyzing data from recorders on board rental cars, they can pinpoint areas where sudden braking occurs as potentially hazardous to foreign visitors.
Using this sophisticatedly acquired information these groups can take precision measures to combat the incidences of accidents involving foreign drivers. So what measures are being taken?
▼ This friendly deer-bear’s pink sticker says “A Foreigner is Driving.”
「外国の方が運転しています」 レンタカーに貼られる注意喚起のステッカーです。 https://t.co/yGflYCTBbS—
函館クロスロードの中の人 (@hakocro) July 20, 2016
Yes, a new trend of stickers which read “A Foreigner is Driving” is gaining momentum among the country’s car rental associations. They’ve been in use in Okinawa and Hokkaido for a while and notify everyone on the road that you are not from around here, or in the words of the Okinawa Rental Car Association, “to show that the driver is a foreigner who is not accustomed with the traffic rules of Japan.”
We should all read, “show” to mean “grossly assume” in this instance, and what exactly other drivers are supposed to do differently with this information is anyone’s guess. It’s kind of like when Marge Simpson bought a “Baby on Board” sticker so people would stop intentionally ramming the family car.
▼ The Okinawa sticker – Fun fact: “Heartful” and “Hurtful” sound identical in Japanese
Karyn NISHI-POUPEE (@karyn_poupee) March 16, 2016
Norimono News asked the Okinawa Rental Car Association whether accidents involving foreign drivers were on the rise. They said while serious accidents did not increase, there has been a rise in minor bumps and scrapes. Okinawa has reported a 300-percent increase in these accidents from 2014 to 2016.
That sounds like a lot, but when you consider the overall population of foreign drivers in Japan has risen by 400 percent between 2011 and 2015, it doesn’t sound like there is a particular spike in foreigner-related traffic going on at all. There’s simply more out there.
The desire for stickers is not surprising though, Japan is a sticker-happy country and already affixes special ones to vehicles belonging to the elderly and newly licensed drivers. And unlike those ones, foreigner stickers are not required by law.
Furthermore, they’re actually “sticker-magnets” that are removable. This is because the message “A foreigner is driving” means different things to different people. For example, to a thief it means: “This driver probably has a lot of cash and belongings inside.” Or to a right-wing ultranationalist, it means: “Please deface this car.”
Nevertheless, despite their specious benefits and increased risk to the user, these stickers are gaining traction and may be seen nationwide in the near future.
Problems aside, at least an effort is being made, and for that I’d like to recommend the team behind it wear these stickers that I made so they can show everyone they’re working hard.
Meanwhile, we’ll have to think of other ways to deal with these dangerous foreign drivers like the guy who was eating instant ramen while driv… oh wait, he wasn’t foreign. Oh, okay the foreign guy who backed his car up a telephone pole… no, he was from here too…. Hmmm.