Electric Scooter Accidents Surge in Japan After Rules Eased

After the easing of regulations in Japan, allowing electric scooters on the roads without a driver’s license, the country has seen a startling increase in accidents, rising six-fold in just six months. This surge has raised significant safety concerns, especially as awareness of the new traffic rules appears to be lacking among the public. Experts like Takeru Shibayama from the Vienna University of Technology emphasize the urgent need for better traffic education, particularly for young riders who may be unaware of the potential risks. As scooter sharing services gain popularity, with companies like Luup Inc. reporting a spike in app downloads, the importance of stringent regulation and comprehensive rider education becomes ever more crucial. Have you ever thought about the impact of easing regulations on new technologies like electric scooters? In Japan, recent relaxation of the rules has led to a surge in accidents involving these increasingly popular vehicles.

Electric Scooter Accidents Surge in Japan After Rules Eased

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Overview of the Situation

Electric scooter accidents in Japan have seen a dramatic rise since new regulations were introduced in July 2023. The number of accidents has increased six-fold, as shown by recent data from the National Police Agency. The regulatory changes allow users to ride electric scooters without a driver’s license, provided the vehicle meets certain specifications.

The New Rules Explained

The revised road traffic law in Japan states that users can operate electric scooters with a maximum speed of 20 kilometers per hour without needing a driver’s license. However, minors under the age of 16 are banned from riding these vehicles. The scooters must adhere to strict size regulations, being no longer than 190 centimeters and no wider than 60 centimeters. Additionally, they must have green lights at both the front and back.

Electric scooters are mainly for road use but can be ridden on sidewalks at speeds of 6 kph or less, provided they have flashing green lights to alert pedestrians.

Accidents and Injuries

In the six months following the rule change, there were 85 traffic accidents involving electric scooters, leading to 86 injuries. This figure nearly matches the total number of accidents recorded over the previous three years and five months combined. Considering the ease with which people can now use these scooters, it’s no wonder the number of accidents has surged.

Case Studies and Examples

To highlight the confusion surrounding these new rules, several incidents have made news headlines. For instance, in Osaka’s bustling Minami district, a woman in her 20s was fined for speeding on a sidewalk well past midnight. She claimed she didn’t think there were any restrictions on sidewalk use for scooters.

In another case, a rider in Nagoya caused serious injury to a pedestrian while riding a scooter that exceeded the 20 kph limit, for which a license is still required.

Electric Scooter Accidents Surge in Japan After Rules Eased

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Rising Popularity of Electric Scooters

Despite the risks, electric scooters are becoming increasingly popular. Companies like Luup Inc., which provides electric bike and scooter-sharing services, have witnessed a two to threefold increase in the monthly download rate of their app since the rules were eased. As of the end of March, Luup had rental kiosks in 10 different prefectures in Japan, making these scooters easily accessible to a broad audience.

The Need for Improved Traffic Education

Experts like Takeru Shibayama, senior scientist at the Vienna University of Technology’s Institute for Transportation, have emphasized the need for better traffic education. Shibayama points out that the quiet operation of electric scooters increases the risk of collisions with pedestrians, which could potentially be fatal. Enforcing road laws and promoting traffic education, particularly in schools, could significantly mitigate these risks.

Electric Scooter Accidents Surge in Japan After Rules Eased

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Historical Context

Previously, electric scooters in Japan were classified similarly to mopeds, requiring riders to hold a driver’s license, wear a helmet, and register the vehicle with a license plate. Now, under the new regulations, these scooters are classified as designated small motorized bicycles, which come with fewer requirements but also increased risks.

Comparative Analysis

Here’s a comparative table to better understand the changes in rules and their consequences:

Aspect Old Rules New Rules
License Requirement Yes No (if 20 kph or less)
Maximum Speed 30 kph 20 kph
Usage Area Roads only Roads and sidewalks (with conditions)
Age Restriction None specified Riders must be 16+
Safety Gear Helmet required Helmet not mandatory
Accidents (Jan 2020 – Jun 2023) 88 Not applicable
Accidents (Jul 2023 – Dec 2023) Not applicable 85

Electric Scooter Accidents Surge in Japan After Rules Eased

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Public Reaction and Awareness

Public reactions to these new rules have been mixed. While some people appreciate the convenience and eco-friendliness of electric scooters, others express concerns about safety. Many riders seem to be unaware of the nuanced rules, such as the requirement to have flashing green lights while riding on sidewalks or the speed limit for road use.

Tips for Safe Riding

To ensure safety and minimize accidents, here are some essential tips for riding electric scooters in Japan:

  1. Know the Rules: Familiarize yourself with the new regulations. Ignorance can lead to fines or, worse, accidents.
  2. Wear Protective Gear: Although not mandatory, wearing a helmet and other protective gear can significantly reduce the risk of injury.
  3. Be Mindful of Speed: Always adhere to speed limits. Slow down when riding on sidewalks and be extra cautious in crowded areas.
  4. Use Lights: Make sure your scooter has the required green lights at both the front and back, especially if you’re riding at night.
  5. Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with any changes in legislations regarding electric scooters to ensure you remain compliant.

Electric Scooter Accidents Surge in Japan After Rules Eased

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Future Prospects and Recommendations

Japan’s experiment with relaxing electric scooter laws is a significant undertaking that has both its pros and cons. As electric scooters become more integrated into daily life, there will likely be further adjustments to regulations and an increased focus on safety measures.


The surge in electric scooter accidents in Japan following the easing of rules is a wake-up call for both authorities and the public. While the convenience and environmental benefits of electric scooters are undeniable, safety cannot be overlooked. Effective traffic education, better public awareness, and possibly revisiting some aspects of the regulation will be crucial in balancing the benefits and risks.

Electric scooters are here to stay, and finding the best way to incorporate them safely into the transportation ecosystem will be an ongoing challenge. So next time you hop on one of these zippy little vehicles, make sure you know the rules, stay safe, and enjoy the ride!

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