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Revised law compels drivers to declare ills

JIJI

A revised road traffic law that took effect over the weekend obliges drivers to declare illnesses that could pose safety risks behind the wheel.

Those who make false reports will be jailed for up to 12 months or fined up to ¥300,000.

The revised law, which took effect Sunday, was enacted in June of last year after a crane truck hit and killed six elementary school children in Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture.

The driver, who has epilepsy, was unconscious when the vehicle struck the children, who were on their way to school in April 2011. The driver had concealed his medical condition to obtain a driver’s license.

The revised law says drivers licenses cannot be issued to anyone who suffers from a mental illness that includes hallucinations, or to those who have diseases that could affect their consciousness or cause physical impairment.

The new steps cover such diseases as epilepsy, schizophrenia, sleep disorders, dementia and alcohol and drug addiction.

Those applying for a new drivers license or a renewal will have to answer five questions on whether, over the past five years, they have fallen unconscious, lost control of their bodies, fallen asleep during the day after getting sufficient sleep the previous night, been addicted to alcohol or been advised by doctors not to drive.

Those who answer “yes” to any of the questions will be interviewed by officials at drivers license centers or police stations, and may need to submit medical certificates.

Doctors who report to authorities about patients who drive and suffer from illnesses cited by the law will not be accused of breaching confidentiality.