Hoping to slow down an increase in traffic accidents involving elderly motorists, the Cabinet on Tuesday approved a bill for submission to the Diet that would require more rigorous checks for dementia among drivers 75 and older.
Those suspected of having symptoms of dementia will be required to promptly submit a clean bill of health from a doctor under the proposed amendment to the Road Traffic Law.
At the end of 2013, approximately 4.24 million licensed drivers were aged 75 or older.
The total number of fatal road accidents across Japan has decreased every year for the past 14 years, but the proportion caused by drivers aged 75 and older has consistently risen.
According to the National Police Agency, the figure climbed from 5.5 percent in 2003 to 11.9 percent in 2013.
Drivers aged 75 or older are currently required to undergo cognitive tests when renewing their driver’s license every three years and are classified into three groups — those suspected of dementia, those with limited cognitive impairment and those with no signs of cognitive problems.
Currently, those in the first category are not required to be cleared by a doctor unless they violate the traffic law by, for instance, ignoring a traffic light or going the wrong way on a one-way street.
Drivers in the other categories are not required to undergo medical checks even if caught violating a traffic law.
In addition to requiring those suspected of dementia to promptly submit a clean bill of health, the bill would mandate health assessments for elderly drivers in the other two groups following any traffic violation.
Under the current law, a driver’s license is suspended or revoked if the motorist is diagnosed with dementia.
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