Mother, 4-year-old son killed in car crash


A 35-year-old woman and her 4-year-old son were killed when the car they were in crashed into another vehicle at an intersection on National Route 408 in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, on Sunday.

According to police, the accident occurred at at around 12:30 a.m., Fuji TV reported. One car, driven by a 48-year-old man, was hit from the right by a kei (light) car, carrying five members of one family, at the intersection which has traffic lights. The left side of the light car was completely wrecked.

All six were taken to hospital. Megumi Inaba and her son Masato, who were in the light car, sustained serious injuries and were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The other three members of their family — Inaba’s 35-year-old husband, and their two other sons, aged 11 and 8 — suffered chest and leg injuries, while the driver of the other car sustained minor injuries.

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A 'light' car? Should that be 'small' car perhaps?

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

How awful for all involved.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

The safety standards for "light" or "Kei" cars are much lower than those for standard vehicles. The fuel efficiency isn't much better. I can't understand why they are so popular.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

A 'light' car? Should that be 'small' car perhaps?

Kei 軽 means light. They're death traps, as Mr Kipling says.

an American FULL SIZE SUV

I'd take that need to brag to a shrink, not this board.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

So I just googled Kei cars... they fit 5 people in such a tiny thing??

4 ( +8 / -4 )

RIP. Keis are legally only allowed to carry four adults, and only have two seat belts in the back. However three kids under twelve count as two adults, so you can legally get a family of five in one. One child will have no seat belt, a big problem of course, though maybe not such a factor in a massive side impact like this.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

So I just googled Kei cars... they fit 5 people in such a tiny thing??

actually it is illegal to carry more than 4 people in one car. Babies and toddlers included.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Oh I see. I was wondering how a booster seat would even fit in the back with 2 other kids. Though I'm not sure booster seats are the same in Japan so maybe that's not relevant.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As soon as I read the headline I knew it was a K-car. They are a cheap car to run, but if you have an accident in one and they will cost you your life. Very sad accident that should not have happened.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

though maybe not such a factor in a massive side impact like this.

Sounds like it was the kei car that hit the side of the other vehicle, so that would be head-on damage to the kei car, and with such small crumple zones on most kei cars, it's no surprise the mother, who was likely holding the toddler in the front passenger seat died along with the child.

Also, the fact that the accident happened at 12:30 a.m. on a Sunday, (Monday?), morning indicates they were returning from a weekend family outing. Dad, (the driver), may have been asleep at the wheel or at least extremely tired. All guesses based on the story as presented.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"I can't understand why they are so popular."

The tax bracket is much lower and the cost of maintenance, snow tyres and 'Shaken' are considerably lower.

"They are a cheap car to run, but if you have an accident in one and they will cost you your life."

Rather generalized, but it depends on the options. Many come with surround airbags now, like mine. Proximity sensors and auto stop are also options, as standard cars. Many just get the bog-standard setup, these are at risk if they get into a crash. K-trucks are more often in accidents, partly due to the elderlt drivers.

"They're death traps"

Read the story again. You are missing the reported facts and the ones not reported.

12:30am, when responses are weaker and people are tired/sleepy. The children should have been in bed!

No mention of seatbelts, except "suffered chest and leg injuries", seatbelts will injure chests.

Probably, the mother and 4-year-old were the ones without seatbelts, though this is speculation.

"This is why these "light" cars need to be banned."

Oh, dear. Really?

-2 ( +4 / -6 )


Its relative too though isn’t it?

If everyone rode motorbikes, then kei cars would be the deadliest biggest cars.

If you were on a truck road, your SUV would be a kei car.

In general you don’t want to be in an accident with a larger heavier vehicle.


6 ( +7 / -1 )


If its legal as you say, but yet one in the back cannot get a seatbelt, how could it technically be legal?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Whoever here is arguing for Kei cars knows little about vehicle construction.

In order to keep the weight down, the chassis is made of lighter, less rigid, steel alloy and significantly thinner than a regular car.

The horizontal and vertical cabin supports are not structural. There is little roll protection.

There is no upper structural support for the rear quarter, as they were originally envisaged as cargo vehicles and tweaked later to allow passengers.

You are accustomed to trusting that a car has passed crash tests, side impact tests, roll tests... And assume the same is for all cars. Well... Not for Kei. The crash tests rating required is just a fraction of a regular car. This is why Keis are not sold/exported to most other countries except developing nations. They simply don't pass the safety requirements.

If a Kei used a similar amount of structural metal as a regular car, it would simply be too heavy to move.

From the outside, to the untrained eye, a car is a car. But the difference between them is like a solid oak table compared to a cheap home store flatpack desk.

Airbags won't help you.

The classification was never intended for a passenger car to be driven at high speeds.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

No, Aly, five are okay in a kei according to the 3 kids equals 2 adults rule. Advisories/rules/whatever about seatbelts are waived if a car does not have one for every passenger.

A four year old is not a toddler and that child may have been on the back seat.

The tax breaks for kei cars are eye grabbing, but many people in keis are clearly not driving on a budget because they are sitting in a new or nearly new car which will have cost 1.5 million yen plus. If you want to save money driving, buy an old car.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

 I am the only foreigner in China who drives an American FULL SIZE SUV. No one will be dying in my vehicle!

Whoa! Tone the pride down a bit there, Cap'n 'murica!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Note that the article says the larger car was hit from the right.

ie, he was hit on the driver's side (Japan is RHD), but came out more or less unscathed with minor injuries (probably a bit of whiplash). A side impact is significantly more risky than a head on.

The front of a car is the best place to have an impact in a regular car. You have the crumple zone, 1/3 of the chassis, front cross member, firewall all acting to soak up impact and protect the cabin.

Yet the Kei, having such little structural strength, killed 2 and seriously injured the remaining 3.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

An extra bit of info, indeed there were traffic lights, but at night they were not active, just blinking. Also, there were no braking marks, which suggests the driver of the kei car may have fallen asleep and crushed head on at full speed.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Are you talking CNY or RMB @SurivanihC 10:36am?

“I don't underatand why people want to trade safety to save a little ¥uan.”-

We can understand that’s also big concern there.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

 I am the only foreigner in China who drives an American FULL SIZE SUV. No one will be dying in my vehicle!

Yeah until everyone starts thinking like you and your FULL SIZE SUV gets hit by a MEGA FULL SIZE SUV.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

RIP for the family.

As for the kei-cars there are many other reasons to chose one instead of normal size or SUV.

Typically narrow roads make it better for many regions in Japan. Add that many new budget houses in specific regions have parking space only for kei-car (my case).

On the side note - these small cars have surprisingly well disigned interior! I found them more spacious than many normal cars! They are also easier for women to drive and park in cramped space! Of course as owner I have safety concerns but I have no choice!

3 ( +4 / -1 )


thanks for the link. very informative

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Poor family, RIP mom and little one.

That said, how irresponsable and careless do you have to be, to use one of those caskets on wheels as a family car?

I get it, they could be useful for grocery shopping in the countryside if you're a grandpa, but as a regular family car? That's beyond me.

I posses a German car and a Japanese full size van, both with doors probably sturdier and heavier than a whole kei car. My family is my treasure and their safety comes first.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This article is confusing, but it appears that at least one kei was involved. A black kei care, presumably the one the family was travelling in, appears to have been T-boned on the near side and subsequently rolled over.

Regardless of the legality, I do not know how it would be possible to properly restrain five individuals in a kei car, though that doesn’t seem to be of concern to the average Taro and Tomoko Yamada.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In europe we have a saftey rating called NCAP all the car must comply with basic saftey standards some are better than others.

it seems that the smaller and lighter the cars are the less safe they become. Although there are no Kei cars on there the suzuki alto is a small light weight car, and yet again it does not come out well in the saftey report, I would love to take a few of these Kei car to the testing lab and see how they fair, something tells me they would not get a high rating. Its a shame that we sacrifice saftey, for economics or owning a tinny little car, personaly Ill stick with my Volvo.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Agreed @Mickelicious 7:29am: Oversized engines may cause ‘tone deafness’ in addition to other hazards.

A 'light' car? Kei 軽 means light.... an American full size Suv? I'd take that need to brag to a shrink, not this board. (+13)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

some people opted to save on jidoshaze a bought tiny can with 4 wheels called kei jidousha...than that "car" packed with five people involved in accident with tragic outcome.

save little more and buy proper car!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Kei cars are like bicycles or 50cc motorbikes. Dangerous but very useful for over 70s.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The savings of buying a "kei" and something like a Honda Fit are not so great. But a huge difference in safety, ride, drivability and comfort.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is very sad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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