In a TV commercial calling on drivers to stop at crosswalks, a couple remains separated on opposite sides of a road by passing vehicles. (Provided by Tochigi Traffic Safety Association)

UTSUNOMIYA--In a familiar scene to locals, a young couple run breathlessly to each other but stop at a pedestrian crosswalk across from each other.

The handsome man and beautiful woman keep calling out each other’s names “Yuka!” and “Seiya!” in anguish, but no cars stop to let them cross.

Then, the message “Yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk” is splashed across the screen.

This TV commercial is gaining huge traction in Tochigi Prefecture where it's no laughing matter.

Tochigi ranks at the bottom of all prefectures for vehicles stopping at a crosswalk without a traffic signal when there is a pedestrian waiting, with only 0.9 percent coming to a halt.

The TV commercial, commissioned by the Tochigi Traffic Safety Association, started airing on the Tochigi Television station in April and is also being introduced on the Tochigi prefectural police website.

The impetus for the awareness campaign is a survey conducted by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) last summer at 94 signal-less crosswalks across Japan's 47 prefectures.

According to the findings, the ratio of vehicles that stop for pedestrians was 0.9 percent in Tochigi Prefecture, compared with the nationwide average of 8.6 percent.

The Road Traffic Law stipulates that drivers must stop at crosswalks without traffic signals when a pedestrian is trying to cross the road.

The prefectural police and the Tochigi Traffic Safety Association have mounted a public relations campaign since last autumn that includes the video.

Although surrealistic in content, the commercial is driving the point home with the public.

“We hope a visual message will have an effect," said an official of the traffic planning division of the prefectural police. "If necessary, we may come up with a sequel or two.”