Section 2. Response to Increase in Traffic Accidents
Item 1. Road Safety Issues and Toyota Traffic Environment Committee Initiatives
The motorization of Japan accelerated at a rapid pace in the 1960s, and it became clear that automobiles were playing a major role in the development of the Japanese economy and in improving the lifestyle of the Japanese. In 1967, the number of vehicles owned in Japan passed 10 million. It was around this time that road congestion and traffic accidents began increasing, with approximately 720,000 accidents in 1969, and in 1970 a record 16,765 people were killed on the roads. Traffic safety came under the spotlight as an increasing social problem.
At a meeting of managing directors in January 1968, Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. President Eiji Toyoda issued a directive to members to "develop positive attitudes toward cars, and work toward the development of society". Based on that order, the Toyota Traffic Environment Committee was established in April that year and worked to improve and provide proposals on a range of issues regarding the vehicle-usage environment. Chaired by Executive Vice President Shoichi Saito, the committee held its first meeting that month to determine the future direction of activities.
As an urban transport initiative, the company donated automatic induction coordinated traffic lights to the Aichi Prefectural Police Department in 1968, the committee's first year. Toyota also donated a wide-area traffic control system for Tokyo's Ginza area to Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department. Under this system, traffic lights, which had previously been controlled at each intersection, were controlled as rows and furthermore as a grid. The system had been studied by the National Police Agency and the Metropolitan Police Department since 1964. This donation marked the first time a wide-area traffic control system was introduced in practice. Traffic control rapidly moved from conventional point control systems to the new wide-area control systems, and it became clear that the new systems were effective not only in easing congestion but also in reducing accidents and pollution.1
Additionally, in 1973 the committee issued a report titled "Cities and Traffic" that detailed Tokyo's traffic problem, measures toward improvement, and examples of success from other countries. Based on the report, Toyota produced "Traffic in Cities Around the World-A Three-part Series", a three-part film on traffic in major cities around the globe. The film offered objective advice on Japan's traffic problem, and garnered the attention of the ruling administration, government agencies, local governments, and academics.2
On the issue of traffic safety, during the committee's first year in 1968 the company launched a children's traffic safety campaign, targeting 3.5 million nursery school and kindergarten students nationwide. Toyota has continued to conduct traffic safety campaigns on an annual basis, and works with communities to prevent road accidents. The company has conducted research into the psychology and behavior patterns of young children. In order to prevent careless mistakes that could lead to accidents, Toyota created safety picture books that were distributed to nursery schools and kindergartens as teaching materials for safety education. This long-term awareness campaign continues today.
In addition, to make safety measures more specific and effective, Toyota believed that investigation and analysis from an overall perspective of the people, vehicles, and environment involved in traffic accidents was necessary, and conducted a study into traffic accidents that occurred in Toyota City. Over a two-month period from April 1971, the company performed an investigation into accidents with cooperation from the Toyota City Police Department, and summarized the findings in a report entitled "The Road to Traffic Safety".
The Toyota Traffic Environment Committee continued a broad range of research and awareness promotion initiatives. Senior Managing Director Shigenobu Yamamoto, who had assumed the role of chairman in 1973, emphasized the importance of tackling and addressing a broad range of motoring issues as follows:
It is important that we tackle and address a wide range of traffic related issues. Although safety issues, congestion problems and air pollution have become a problem affecting cities worldwide, a single manufacturer cannot solve these problems alone. These issues must be addressed by the government and local authorities, and we are providing the reference materials to support them. The most critical issue is how to turn the vision of a rich and developed transportation system into practical actions. I believe our initiatives will focus on this area in the future.3