CSR History Striving for everyone's safety 40th anniversary of the Driving Safety Promotion Center

Safety education roots and the founding organization

When the issue of automobile safety began to attract attention in Japan during the 1970s, Honda had already recognized the importance of slowing increases in the number of traffic fatalities by combining the “software” of education in safe driving techniques with the “hardware” of automobiles. One day the captain of a motorcycle police squadron came to Honda seeking advice on how his group could reduce the incidence of fatal accidents in the line of duty. Seizing on that request as an opportunity, Honda instructors began offering driving instruction to motorcycle police squadron members at the Suzuka Circuit in 1964, laying the groundwork for the company’s driving safety education program. The training program was later rolled out nationwide with the National Police Agency playing the central role, and the first National Police Motorcycle Safe Riding Competition was held in 1969. The program was enormously successful in improving officers’ skill and increasing their awareness of safety.

Against the backdrop of the era’s intensifying consumer rights campaigns, executive director Michihiro Nishida, who had testified to the Diet in response to pressure to conduct public tests of automobile safety, made the following proposal to president Soichiro Honda and vice-president Takeo Fujisawa:

The safety of automobiles cannot be guaranteed by the “hardware” as a durable consumer good alone. It is only in conjunction with the “software” of proper and enjoyable driving technique that the automobile becomes a product. In short, we need to change our thinking and recognize that this software is part of the product. We’ve been offering safety training for motorcycle riders since 1964 at the Suzuka Circuit for motorcycle police squadrons and deliverymen working for the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation (currently NTT). In addition to expanding those programs so that ordinary customers can participate, I want to apply that valuable know-how to automobiles.

Honda and Fujisawa decided to adopt his proposal on the spot. Just 20 days later in October 1970, the Driving Safety Promotion Center was created to promote safe driving throughout Japan. Despite the fact that there were no comparable organizations on which to model its structure, the Center was formed with remarkable speed. Following its establishment, Honda developed a system for mobilizing personnel to promote safe driving as an entire company. The next January, the team began recruiting instructor candidates from within the company and from affiliates and launched an instructor-training program. Candidates gave up their lunch break to work to master technique and theory alike. In this way, know-how from the motorcycle police training program, instructor enthusiasm, and managerial resolve combined to make it possible to launch the Driving Safety Promotion Center, the first experiment of its kind by an automaker. Motivating the effort was the company’s strong commitment to safety in the form of a desire to save as many lives as possible by quickly forming the Center.

A scene from the initiat training for instructors

Honda announced its basic approach to the promotion of safe driving with this full-page ad in a national newspaper in March 12, 1971.

Describing the basic approach to the promotion of safe driving

An opportunity for the promotion of safe driving presented itself about half a year after the Center’s establishment when Honda ran a full-page newspaper ad outlining its promise to promote safe driving among a large number of people. The ad also described 11 activities comprising its basic approach to the promotion of safe driving, including training the world’s first driving safety promotion instructors and encouraging the formation of and otherwise supporting safe driving clubs.

The ad also introduced a conversation between NASA Control Center head Lunney and Soichiro Honda when he visited the United States. In Honda’s words,

The successful return (of Apollo 13) orchestrated by Lunney was possible because people were in control in key positions, instead of relying on automatic control by machines. Even the mighty Apollo mechanism, the essence of modern science crystallizing all of the intellect of humankind, used people to control its most important parts. People remain the foundation even as machines become more advanced. Now more than ever as machine civilization progresses without limit, I am keenly aware of the importance of true communication between the users of those machines and their creators, communication characterized by the exchange of human warmth.

Behind the introduction of this episode was Honda’s basic stance on what it means to be a company, which consisted of “undertaking corporate activities in the future based on the fundamental role of the exchange of human warmth between the users and creators of products.” Dealers throughout Japan approved the activities and objectives described in the ad, and the organizational efforts continued nationwide, with the number of certified driving safety promotion instructors exceeding 8,000 and the number of safe driving seminars reaching 60,000 in just two years.

In July 1972, the Safety Club Office, which was open to membership by all motorcycle riders and automobile drivers, was created at the Driving Safety Promotion Center as part of the commitment Honda had made in the full-page ad to encourage the formation of and otherwise support safe driving clubs. The Safety Club was distinguished by its inclusion of all motorcycle riders and automobile drivers—not only Honda customers—to help realize the highest level of traffic safety-oriented society. The club took hold as a sponsor of awareness-raising activities designed to make society aware of the existence of good passengers and good drivers as well as a place where drivers could cultivate friendships with one another, later developing into a nationwide organization known as the All Japan Safety Club Gathering in 1980.

Traffic safety advice at the dealership

Striving to pass on safety education from person to person

During the years since its declaration in the full-page newspaper ad of 1971, Honda has spread the approach of its dealerships’ activities—“protecting customers from accidents through heartfelt communication and care”—through the activities of the Driving Safety Promotion Center. The expression “passing on safety education from person to person” was born of this same spirit, and dealerships came to offer advice on safe driving directly to their customers.

In 1970, Honda motorcycle dealerships began offering an explanation to customers using “Safety Points,” the world’s first booklet about safe driving to be provided during product deliveries. Dealerships also encouraged their employees to earn Motorcycle Safe Driving Promotion Committee trainer certification (an official certification granted to individuals who pass a screening process administered by the Motorcycle Safe Driving Promotion Committee). Additionally, automobile dealerships include a pamphlet on safe driving entitled “Safe Driving Guide” with automobiles, and they launched a safety coordinator program as an internal certification to allow dealerships to offer customers safety advice in 1994. Sales staff can provide safety advice based on the driving skills experience and consult with each customer about the concerns or trouble they have while driving. Furthermore, dealerships work to train sales staff to provide instruction in safe driving at their facilities, and currently they are strengthening efforts to provide advice about safety in an approachable manner, for example by holding motorcycle and automobile safe driving seminars for primarily beginner drivers. The approach behind these dealership activities continues to underpin one of Honda’s core policies on safety in the form of passing on safety education from person to person.

Honda Riding Simulator (for motorcycles) sold in 1996

Expanding areas to experience hazards safely

In 1974, one of the primary areas where the Driving Safety Promotion Center focused its resources was the approach to youth issues. At the time, motorcycle gangs had become a serious social issue, and there was an increasing tendency to equate such groups with young people riding motorcycles. Honda strongly promoted safe driving for youth through its motorcycles and expanded safe driving seminars it had been offering to drivers working for government agencies and companies to include high school students. The effort reflected Honda’s commitment not only to reducing accidents, but also to fostering the development of healthy youth throughout society, in short to encouraging youth to enjoy motorcycles not only for their speed, but also to use them in a safe, healthy manner.

With the number of motorcycle owners and female license holders both surpassing 10 million and the number of motorcycle accident casualties continuing to rise rapidly in 1978, Honda launched the Honda Motorcyclist School (HMS) in an effort to train beginner riders. The school, whose classes were held at Traffic Education Centers and dealerships, offered what was essentially a primer course for new riders by teaching them the fundamentals of medium and large motorcycle operation after they received their license. HMS went on to launch a range of educational programs, including one-day classes, sport riding schools, and ladies’ classes. In 1991, the company launched the Honda Driving School (HDS) to train new automobile drivers. The unique Honda program focused on using real motorcycles and automobiles to teach students the limitations of people and vehicles in a safe environment. However, one issue emerged as the driving safety education program progressed: how to allow students to experience the risk of an accident safely during the learning process? There are limits to how effectively classes can use actual vehicles, and it is impossible to have students experience hazards out on the road. In response to this dilemma, Honda in 1988 began researching traffic accidents and developing a proprietary simulator that would allow students to vicariously experience hazards. Following a process of trial-and-error, the computer-based Honda Riding Simulator (for motorcycles) was announced in 1991 and an enhanced model developed in 1993 was presented at the Tokyo Motor Show that same year. The chassis duplicated the movements of actual driving along its lateral and longitudinal axes as road conditions were displayed on the screen, allowing the user to experience hazards safely while increasing his or her ability to anticipate hazards. Over time, the company embarked on a variety of development projects, including an automobile simulator, a bicycle simulator, and Honda Doga KYT Risk Prediction Training in a program that continues to the present day, reflecting Honda’s ongoing commitment to creating more effective simulators.

The Riding Center opened in Brazil in 1978.

Expanding programs to overseas markets

In 1972, Honda began to expand its safe driving programs to overseas markets following Soichiro Honda’s declaration, “I want to strengthen our promotion of safe driving overseas and help reduce the number of traffic accidents not only in Japan, but around the world.” The following year, Honda made a contribution to MSF, an organization dedicated to the promotion of safe driving in the U.S.; donated vehicles; and shared driving safety education know-how. The company also dispatched six instructors to South Korea, where they worked to train instructors, marking the start in earnest of efforts to promote safe driving overseas. From that time to the present, the fundamental nature of Honda’s motorcycle-related activities has not changed from educating riders so that they do not cause accidents on the one hand, and creating venues and training instructors to accomplish that mission on the other.

The following basic approach has informed our activities worldwide, and it remains unchanged today as those programs have expanded to include 36 countries overseas:

At the beginning comes the training of instructors—human resource development. The most important thing is training people involved in the promotion of safe driving around the world. But due to differences in culture and customs, it is no simple task to promote safe driving in different countries. For example, there are countries with high average temperatures where riders do not wear helmets, gloves, boots, or other protective gear because doing so makes the heat unendurable. But that doesn’t mean we can slack off on drive safety education. We will pursue these activities by combining sales, service, and safety.

Conclusion

In the 40 years since the creation of the Driving Safety Promotion Center, Honda has pursued safety-related activities with an unshakable dedication to safety that can be summed up in the ideal of providing not only products for customers, but offering them safety at the same time. Just as the “hardware”—the automobile itself—has seen progress in safety, the “software”—driving safety education—has also continued to evolve on a daily basis. Honda’s initiatives in this area, which began with safe driving education for drivers, have expanded to include traffic safety learning programs for all ages, from children to the elderly.

Reflecting its commitment to ensuring that all residents of our mobility-oriented society can enjoy a high level of safety, Honda will continue to promote safe driving based on the dual concepts of passing on safety education from person to person, which keeps the focus on people, and participatory, hands-on education, which lets students experience hazards safely.

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