A Question About Driving in Japan

Oct 28, 2009
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Edogawa-ku
#1
I don't drive here, so I haven't had the experience of studying for and taking the exam for a driver's license in Japan. My question is.. why do a lot of drivers wait until they get to ready to turn before they signal that they are turning?? Is there some rule against signaling at a reasonable distance before you get to your turn?? The hardest thing for me to understand is when I see people sit at a red light for a minute or so, THEN when the light turns green, the signal starts flashing! :confused:

I had a close call today with a truck, but managed to hop up on the sidewalk with just inches (centimeters) to spare - no signal until it was too late.

With that said.. I sincerely believe that drivers in Japan are far more watchful and courteous than drivers in the United States. I am just puzzled by this potential hazard that I've seen over and over.
 

Wolfman

Speeding Up
Jul 31, 2007
631
18
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Suginamiku
#2
I'm not sure why this is. I just got my Japanese licence only recently. Japan has a number of bilateral agreements in place mutually recognising driving licences with counterpart country's - all you need to do is have an eye test and spend numerous very long hours in one of their offices. Because of how I acquired my licence, I'm not sure if such rules exist and are part of the formal driving qualification. However, the first thing my better half commented upon whilst driving over the New Year was that I was putting my indicators on way too early, and I should "only do this 3 seconds before the turn". This to me sounds dangerously close so I'm going to stick with habit I learnt in the UK.

There are probably so many little roads and side streets in Japan that 3 seconds or thereabouts is deemed sufficient. They tend to drive a lot less agressively and more cautiously here as well.
 

jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,511
639
133
Kanazawa
#3
I've driven here for 22+ years, tho only a bit of that in and around tokyo.

The turn signal thing is something I hardly even think about. It's part of the turn itself rather than prep for it. Expect that, rather than some foreign way of doing it. Similar with changing lanes, the turn signal goes on as the vehicle has started to change, rather than a couple seconds prior. Many times signaling makes no difference anyway, since if someone's going to make a right and you're behind them, you'll have to wait for them to turn whether they've signaled or not. As for drivers making a left, just don't expect a turn signal and you won't be surprised when there isn't one.

But this is a bike forum, so...

As a cyclist amongst cars, drivers here rate very well, and I try not to abuse their nice-ness. There are some outliers around, but what's good is that vehicle behavior and movements on the roads are so predictable, even for the rules that are stretched (going on thru on the yellow or red). Complement that with how accident liability is usually apportioned here, and it's an excellent place to ride.
 
Jan 14, 2007
2,514
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Noda
japanichiban.com
#4
annoys me when I'm driving too. Pull up at a red light behind a car and then light goes green and then the car signals it's going to turn right.
If it had signaled a lot earlier I would have lined up on the left and been able to pass it...now I'm stuck till it turns...:warau:
 
Oct 28, 2009
87
0
26
Edogawa-ku
#5
... Because of how I acquired my licence, I'm not sure if such rules exist and are part of the formal driving qualification. However, the first thing my better half commented upon whilst driving over the New Year was that I was putting my indicators on way too early, and I should "only do this 3 seconds before the turn". This to me sounds dangerously close so I'm going to stick with habit I learnt in the UK. ...
At least it's not my imagination. 3 seconds sounds dangerous to me too, but I didn't make the rules.

... There are some outliers around, but what's good is that vehicle behavior and movements on the roads are so predictable, even for the rules that are stretched (going on thru on the yellow or red).
How could I predict that the truck was going to turn?

annoys me when I'm driving too. Pull up at a red light behind a car and then light goes green and then the car signals it's going to turn right.
If it had signaled a lot earlier I would have lined up on the left and been able to pass it...now I'm stuck till it turns...
Yeah, that is frustrating when that happens (while I'm driving).
 

massa

Warming-Up
Feb 22, 2008
174
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Setagayaku
#7
I don't drive here, so I haven't had the experience of studying for and taking the exam for a driver's license in Japan. My question is.. why do a lot of drivers wait until they get to ready to turn before they signal that they are turning?? Is there some rule against signaling at a reasonable distance before you get to your turn?? The hardest thing for me to understand is when I see people sit at a red light for a minute or so, THEN when the light turns green, the signal starts flashing! :confused:

I had a close call today with a truck, but managed to hop up on the sidewalk with just inches (centimeters) to spare - no signal until it was too late.

With that said.. I sincerely believe that drivers in Japan are far more watchful and courteous than drivers in the United States. I am just puzzled by this potential hazard that I've seen over and over.
Hi Randy

Signing as early as possible is encouraged by traffic law. I used to giving turning signals for a long time before where I like to turn is coming closer in case there are no little roads. Because I think it will be necessary to give enough time before another person to notice it. It is one of cause of my frustration that generally drivers giving signs toooo late before they turn. I don't know why generally they do.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
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Yokohama
#8
I spoke to my buddy in the police about this and basically the law is pretty much the same in the UK. Drivers have just got lazy here and do the turn and signal manouver.
 
May 22, 2007
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Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#9
It's a pet peeve of mine, too. The correct procedure...

Mirror - Signal - Manoevure​

...has become...

IF(DRIVER=BOTHERED,SIGNAL+MANOEUVRE,MANOEUVRE)​

I thus have a growing collection of unused door and wing mirrors removed at 30kph from moving vehicles that cut me up. Use 'em or lose 'em, motorists!

The habit of turning off headlamps when stopping at a junction or railway crossing is also bizarre. What are they doing? Saving the batteries? This isn't 1965. Of course many forget to put them back on because they're too busy texting or watching TV.

And (since I'm on a rhetorical rant) why oh why oh why do so many motorists start driving at night without their lights on, and then maybe put them on after or 100m or so? Or drive all night using just their parking lights? Is it just to give me the pleasure of enjoying their startled expressions when I knock on their window, just as they're searching for the right emoji, and suggest "Lighto tsukemasho!" Don't they wonder why the console is dark?

(Breathe, Mikey...)
 

Phil

Maximum Pace
#11
The habit of turning off headlamps when stopping at a junction or railway crossing is also bizarre. What are they doing? Saving the batteries?
I believe it's to save on gasoline. A lot of the most recent model cars do this automatically, I think(?)

I once took a bus many moons ago in Kyoto in which the driver stopped his *engine* at every traffic light--again, to save gasoline. It was a something bus drivers etc did during the oil shock in the 70s, and I guess this driver just kept the habit. I've translated some automotive documents about engine systems Toyota (and others) are developing that will also do this automatically, ie shut down your engine when you're not moving.

As for the indicating thing, I've actually started to get into the habit of it now. I won't start up the indicator until I see the lights for the cross traffic start to change...
 
Oct 28, 2009
87
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26
Edogawa-ku
#12
Hi Randy

Signing as early as possible is encouraged by traffic law. I used to giving turning signals for a long time before where I like to turn is coming closer in case there are no little roads. Because I think it will be necessary to give enough time before another person to notice it. It is one of cause of my frustration that generally drivers giving signs toooo late before they turn. I don't know why generally they do.
Hi Massa

It's good to know the law is on our side. It is frustrating to me also that some drivers do not signal before they turn. Riding in traffic can be dangerous.
 
Oct 28, 2009
87
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Edogawa-ku
#13
I spoke to my buddy in the police about this and basically the law is pretty much the same in the UK. Drivers have just got lazy here and do the turn and signal manouver.

Thanks for asking about this. The general law (each state can be different) in the US is to signal your intentions 30 m before turning or changing lanes. I assume that the law in the UK is similar. I realize that is a long distance, especially when you are moving slow, but it's helpful to cyclists to get close to that distance, say 15 m, instead of 1 m.
 
Oct 28, 2009
87
0
26
Edogawa-ku
#15
I believe it's to save on gasoline. A lot of the most recent model cars do this automatically, I think(?)

I once took a bus many moons ago in Kyoto in which the driver stopped his *engine* at every traffic light--again, to save gasoline. It was a something bus drivers etc did during the oil shock in the 70s, and I guess this driver just kept the habit. I've translated some automotive documents about engine systems Toyota (and others) are developing that will also do this automatically, ie shut down your engine when you're not moving.

As for the indicating thing, I've actually started to get into the habit of it now. I won't start up the indicator until I see the lights for the cross traffic start to change...
Interesting.. about turning the engine off to try and save gas. How long would the engine have to idle to use more gas than it does to crank the engine? I would think it certainly causes more wear. Pollution could be a consideration in that equation also.

You're right about bus drivers turning off the engine at each stop. I don't ride often, but when I do go to Costco, for example, at every stop and traffic light the engine is turned off.

Anyway, I don't have a problem with a car engaging a turn signal after it is already stopped at a light. It might be a minor inconvenience for other drivers, but it's no threat to us as cyclists.
 
May 22, 2007
3,571
1,390
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Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#16
should "only do this 3 seconds before the turn".
I looked it up. This is the ordinance referred to in the road traffic law, as it relates to timing of signals:

http://www.houko.com/00/02/S35/270.HTM#021

It says that, when turning, the driver should signal 30m before the turn. And when changing lanes, they should signal 3 seconds before manoeuvering.

Nothing about "only making the manoeuvre after confirming that it is safe to do so." (Well... what did I expect?)

I also looked around for vox populi opinions on the matter. It seems that signalling early (or at all) is deemed uncool ("dasai") by some elements in the driving population. However it was also recognised that this is a very efficient way to have accidents with bikers/cyclists and that more responsibility would be allocated to the motorist, in insurance adjustment or legal proceedings, if they were found to have signalled for less than the stipulated time/distance.

(sigh)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-zwplpdoiI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMRfjzlkRbw
(Japanese TV report about bicycle accidents... mostly blaming cyclists)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHMTzGYkyIU
(Follow-up, with a little more emphasis on motorists)
 

Wolfman

Speeding Up
Jul 31, 2007
631
18
38
Suginamiku
#17
It says that, when turning, the driver should signal 30m before the turn. And when changing lanes, they should signal 3 seconds before manoeuvering.
That seems about right - I was incorrectly informed. I guess I should have taken it with pinch of salt anyway given the overall reluctance to use rear view mirrors and side mirrors when indicating (with numerous near miss rear-entries by trucks that have often left me terrified).
 
Oct 28, 2009
87
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26
Edogawa-ku
#19
On a positive note, I want to point out that I do see quite a few left turn maneuvers that are commendable. These drivers signal first, then move over to the far left side of the lane before making their turn. In my opinion, that is the safest way possible, because it blocks any motorbikes or bicycles from getting in their blind spot before the turn is made. I wish all drivers would make turns in that manner.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#20
Talking of Killer Taxi's i used to work with a guy who had lived and worked in Japan for the past 30 years and he told me about a situation that arose where cyclists in Yokohama got so annoyed with Taxi's cutting them up and running them off the road that it turned to open warefare.

A group of cyclist took it apon themselves to basically kamikaze run taxis deliberatly with the intention of causing accidents, it got to the point where the insurance premiums for the local yellow cabs got so high that the drivers were re-educated regarding cyclists.

Now I don't know if this is urban legend or not but Taxi's in and around Yokohama certainly are a lot more considerate to cyclists than the ones I found in Tokyo.