Driving tips in Japan: Car accident

Traffic accident and to drivers fighting

photo by Green Wala

It is just a decade ago that Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, which are the most known cities of Japan, were dominant tourist destinations for international tourists. But this no longer is the case. Tourists show different interests along with the recent increase in the number of international tourists. More people are choosing to drive destinations that were attracting only a small number of foreign tourists. Accordingly, the increased number of road accidents caused by foreign drivers have been a great concern in recent years. Even though a driver are not a tourist, it is very common that he becomes overly distressed by getting involved in a road accident in an unfamiliar circumstance. To prepare for an unexpected road accident, it is a good idea to review the basics of accident response.


First steps after a car accident

Unfortunately, you have caused a car accident. You may get upset and panicked by the car crash in a foreign country and feel completely lost. But generally, there is no significant difference in road accident response between Japan and the rest of the world. Order of priority may vary depending on significance of the traffic accident, but roughly proceeds as follows.

1. Care for the injured 

The first priority is always care for the injured person if there is any. This is driver’s responsibility mandated by the Road Traffic Act. A driver must check the degree of injury, transfer the injured to a safe place, provide first-aid and call an ambulance if necessary. Call the closest fire station (119) to request an ambulance.

2. Move the car out of the way

If your car is drivable, move it to road shoulder or somewhere out of the way then place a triangular stopping plate to alert following drivers. Otherwise, call a towing company or your car dealer to remove your car. If you are in a rental car accident, you must call the rental car company first as they normally have a specific contracted towing company.

3. Call the police

No matter the significance of the accident, you must call 110 to notify the police of accident. You must call the police as soon as possible as it may take time before officers arrive.

4. Exchange information

Exchange at least the plate number, the name, address and contact number with the other driver. Add insurance company detail and policy number if possible.

5. Collect accident information

Police officers run an on-site investigation to confirm the conditions of road or traffic lights, the cause of accident and other circumstances in detail. On-site investigation is very important to determine the failure ratio on each driver as well. If there are any witnesses, ask them if they are able to give evidence and give you their contacts. Then, the police will issue an accident certificate based on the on-site investigation, which you need to make a claim to the insurance company. If you haven’t notify the police of an accident, an accident certificate won’t be issued.

6. Notify insurance company or rental car company

If it is your own car, notify your insurance company of details of the accident within the time specified by the insurer. If you had an accident in a rental car, call the rental car company immediately and follow their instruction as the car is covered by their insurance.

List of English Speaking Emergency / Helpline Numbers for Foreigners


Things you should NOT do after a car accident

Neglecting the injured

As mentioned previously, providing aid for the injured is driver’s obligation mandated by laws. Neglecting this obligation will be subject to punishment. Also, no matter who is responsible in the cause of accident itself, each driver must take responsibility to care for the injured. If your injury is lighter than the others, you must provide assistance to anyone who is more severely injured.

Not reporting the accident

An accident certificate is not issued unless you report the accident. Your insurance claim will not be accepted without submitting the accident certificate. In addition, if you left the scene neglecting the aftermath without reporting the accident, you will be punished for hit-and-run.

Agreeing to settlement on the scene without professional advice

At the time of road accident, you are upset more or less and it is very hard to make good judgement under such a circumstance. Therefore, you should avoid making rush judgement on the impact of the accident on site, as it is very common to have unexpected physical disorder or defects of the car days after the incident. Let your insurer deal with the other driver after a car accident and never agree to private settlement on the scene even though the other driver suggested to do so.

Underestimating your injury 

The minor injury caused by car accident often leads to severer disorder in later time. Make sure to see the doctor if you get injured in an accident even though it seemed to be negligible.


About vehicle insurance

There are two types of auto insurance commonly used in Japan. One is compulsory automobile liability insurance and voluntary automobile insurance is the other. Many countries other than Japan employ the same or similar structure. There are some differences in policies between these two insurances.

Compulsory automobile liability insurance 

An owner of each automobile are mandated to obtain compulsory automobile liability insurance in order to cover the injuries caused by a vehicle accident. The coverage is limited to physical damage of the third party and all other damages including any property damages and any damages of policyholder side are excluded. Amounts of compensation are normally capped.

Voluntary automobile insurance

Car owners voluntarily choose to obtain voluntary automobile insurance to cover third party property damage, their own physical damages or any other damages. The range of coverage vary depending on policies they purchase.

※Normally, rates include insurance coverage for physical and property damages of third party, automobile, physical damages of renter’s side. You are covered by the insurance policy of the rental car company in case of an car accident, however, an excess or costs exceeded maximum compensation amount may be charged for any loss or damage incurred during the hire period. Also, if the car you rented requires a repair for any damages caused by an accident, a non-operation fee may be charged. Make sure to read through the details of coverages before you sign on the car rental contract.


After all, nothing beats safe driving

This column has introduced what to do and not to do after a road accident. You might have found it very similar to when you are in your own country. Getting involved in a car accident is devastating, even for advanced drivers. Just try to stay calm and start with checking for the injured and calling the police. Remember, you may end up extending your stay in Japan if the accident is serious one and takes time to sort out all the aftermath, so drive safely.


Related Article:
Three options for foreigners to drive a motor vehicle in Japan
Check before driving! Traffic offences in Japan 
Driver license: Procedures to update residential address when moving house
Driving tips in Japan: Gas Stations
Driving tips in Japan: Car parks
Driving tips in Japan: General roads
Driving tips in Japan: Toll roads
Driving tips in Japan: Traffic ticket
Unlimited use of expressways! Japan Expressway Pass for foreign tourists
Touring Japan by car: Rental-car guide for tourists
Best for driving trip! Regional expressway passes
Stuck on the road? Call JAF for roadside assistance





あきらことほ Kotoho Akira

Living outside Japan for a good many years, I often rediscover nice little things about this country every time I return here. I would be more than happy if this column may help you find your "nice little things about Japan"!

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