The National Police Agency said Wednesday it would try to achieve the world’s best traffic safety by introducing comprehensive safety education and reviewing licensing requirements for elderly drivers.
In its 2005 white paper, the NPA said Japan’s traffic death rate per capita will be the lowest of about 30 countries if it succeeds in achieving the government’s target of reducing traffic deaths to fewer than 5,000 a year.
The number of people killed in traffic accidents nationwide across Japan dropped 4.5 percent in 2004 from the previous year to a 48-year low of 7,358, according to the NPA. Of the victims, 3,046, or 41.4 percent, were aged 65 and older.
The white paper stresses the need to deal with elderly drivers and pedestrians, given that Japan is expected to turn into a “super-graying society” in 2014 with one in four Japanese 65 and older.
“Developing a road traffic environment that is suitable for the elderly to use is an urgent task,” the NPA said.
The report includes a survey showing a stark gap in perception between young and old drivers.
While 90.2 percent of drivers aged 65 and older said that they “came to drive more carefully” as they got older, 68.3 percent of younger drivers said they viewed elderly drivers as “not paying attention to their surroundings.”
In the survey, 48.3 percent of the senior drivers said they “have accumulated experience and drive better than when they were young.”
But the percentage of elderly drivers who said they have “blurry vision” totaled 43.9 percent, while 67.6 percent said they “tend to get tired after driving for a long time.”
The report points to the need to determine whether a person is fit for driving but was negative about introducing a blanket age limit for holding a driver’s license.
“The speed at which one’s physical strength weakens differs among individuals. (A blanket age limit) may cause inconvenience to the lives of some elderly people,” the report says.
Of the traffic fatalities, those aged 65 and older accounted for 66.3 percent of pedestrians and 59.5 percent of cyclists, the report says.
Nearly 90 percent of the elderly victims did not have driving licenses, the report says, indicating their lack of road knowledge may have led to accidents.
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