Creating a Safer, More Pleasant Traffic Society
The number of cars on Japanese roads passed the 19 million mark in 1970, signaling the country's emergence in an age of full-scale motorization. However, the dark side of that story was an unprecedented number of deaths due to traffic accidents, for despite the quality of a rapidly developing expressway system there were to date 16,765 such fatalities. It also was the year in which the accusations by American consumer advocate Ralph Nader regarding a lack of automotive safety became public knowledge in Japan.
Soichiro Honda watches police motorcyclists in training. (Photo courtesy of Masuo Uotani)
It was necessary to put an immediate halt to the rising tide of traffic deaths. This was certainly the sentiment at Honda, which - with its awareness of public safety - believed such a goal would not be achieved through the manufacturing process alone, but through the added use of driver education. However, the reason that Honda began working with the concept of promoting driving skills was not due simply to the public's interest in auto safety.
Even before the establishment of Honda's Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations, the company had already set up a foundation for education in safe driving. The so-called Police-Motorcycle Training program was well under way, with instructors from Honda providing key training for members of the Police Motorcycle Team. This training program had originated with an inquiry by a team leader from the Central Japan District Police, who had called on Suzuka's Safe Driving Training Center to ask how on-duty police motorcycle team members could be saved from serious injuries. By October 1964, Honda instructors had begun the first training of motorcycle police at Suzuka Circuit.
Training activities eventually spread nationwide, mainly among police departments, and on June 6, 1969, the inaugural Police Motorcycle Meeting was held. It was a great success, producing achievements in performance among police motorcycle team members and helping them achieve a deeper understanding of safety.