Drivers to be tested on cognitive ability starting at age 75

Kyodo News

The outline of a cognitive test that drivers aged 75 or over will be required to take from June when renewing their licenses was released Thursday by the National Police Agency.

The test is intended to reduce the number of traffic accidents involving elderly drivers by measuring their cognitive level.

The test, at a cost ¥650 per person, will last 30 minutes and consist of three questions the NPA drew up in consultation with experts on dementia.

Elderly drivers will first be asked to write the current date and time. They will then be shown 16 illustrations, for example of animals, for a short time and asked to describe in writing what they have seen. They will also be asked to draw a picture of a clock indicating a particular time.

Based on the results, a driver’s memory and judgment will be categorized according to three levels — showing no sign of declining, slightly declining or declining, the NPA said.

The cognitive test will be followed by a 1 1/2-hour lecture and one hour of driver training.

Those whose cognitive levels are judged to be declining will be advised to consult their families or doctors to decide whether to stop driving.

An identical cognitive test on 129 elderly drivers the NPA tried out last summer found memory and judgment were declining in 2 percent of drivers and slightly declining in 24 percent. The remainder had no deterioration in their cognitive function.