Why You Can’t Get Off The Highway in Japan

Why You Can't Get Off The Highway in Japan Car

One day, I was driving along the motorway in a rented car. I was getting close to my destination and when I tried to get off the motorway however I couldn’t do it. The reason behind was that the place where I tried to get off the motorway was a smart interchange and only cars with ETC can get off the motorway. I thought that foreign tourists would never understand this. So we explained about the motorway.

What is ETC?

What is ETC?

ETC stands for Electronic Toll Collection System. It is a system that uses wireless communication with the on-board equipment of cars and motorcycles at the toll gates of motorways and toll roads to identify the type of vehicle and the section of road to be traveled, to authenticate and settle the payment. The advantage for the user is that, there is no need to pause or exchange cash at the toll gate to collect the ticket or pay the toll. From a traffic point of view, the system also helps to reduce congestion by eliminating the need to stop. 

At toll gates, the speed through the gate is limited to 20 km/h. This is because the ETC data is exchanged. The ETC system itself is designed to communicate with vehicles travelling at high speeds. However, the speed limit of 20 km/h at the toll gates is to prevent unexpected situations such as merging before or after the gate, stopping a car in case of a problem, or being hit by a following car.

What is Smart Interchange?

What is Smart Interchange?
Only ETC (Smart Interchange)

A smart interchange is a simple, ETC-only interchange that allows you to enter and exit a motorway from an existing facility. There are two types of smart interchange: those at service areas and parking areas, and those directly connected to the main motorway. As they are operated as unmanned toll booths with simple ETC gates, they can be installed and managed at a lower cost than conventional toll booths.

Smart Interchanges are being introduced on motorways throughout Japan with the aim of increasing the effectiveness and convenience of motorways and revitalizing local communities.

Cash OK (Interchange)

Only vehicles equipped with ETC on-board equipment can use the Smart Interchange. Payment by cash or credit card is not accepted. Before using the interchange, please make sure that your ETC card is inserted into the OBE. Please note that unlike ordinary ETC gates, non-stop traffic is not possible. Always stop before the opening/closing bar.

The ETC will communicate with you while you are stopped, and then the bar will open. Check the signs and road markings carefully to ensure safe passage. If the bar does not open, please use the intercom at the gate to call the attendant and follow the instructions.

Depending on the location of the gate, there are various conditions of use: some gates do not allow the use of the facilities of the SA/PA, some allow the use of the GS only, and some have restrictions on the types of vehicles that can pass and the hours of operation. It is advisable to check the conditions of use on the internet beforehand. If a smart interchange is closed for any reason, it will not be manned like a normal tollgate, so you will have to use a nearby interchange. If you pass through a smart interchange, you will not be issued with a certificate of use, so you should use the ETC online enquiry service.

Unauthorized Passage

There have been cases where people have been arrested for forcing their way through an ETC without paying. The suspect had made more than 200 unauthorized passages. In the end, he was charged twice the amount of the toll. If you break through in a way that is too malicious, you will be charged with fraud, which is a criminal offense, so pay diligently. If an ordinary car without an ETC enters the ETC-only lane at a tollgate, the ETC lane opening/closing bar will not open. Please stop safely and use the intercom next to the lane to contact the attendant.