National

Two Tokyo pedestrians killed in accident involving elderly driver

Kyodo

Two people were killed when a car driven by an elderly woman suddenly accelerated and broke through a parking lot gate at a hospital in Tachikawa, western Tokyo.

The accident Saturday came as authorities are trying to curb a rise in the number of such incidents, including by advising the elderly to return their driver’s license voluntarily and beefing up tests for drivers who might be suffering dementia.

The 83-year-old driver in Tachikawa, who suffered a head injury in the accident, reportedly told the police she hit the brakes, but the car did not stop. The police said they found no traces of braking.

She is likely to face charges of negligent driving resulting in death. She was visiting her husband at the hospital.

According to the National Police Agency, 26 percent of some 3,600 fatal car accidents in 2014 resulted from serious negligent driving by people aged 65 or older, up nearly 10 percentage points from a decade earlier.

Last Thursday in Shimotsuke, Tochigi Prefecture, a car driven by an 84-year-old man crashed into an area near a hospital entrance, killing an 89-year-old woman and injuring two other people.

That vehicle also apparently broke through a parking lot gate before going off course while driving around a rotary in front of the entrance, according to police, who found no trace of braking.

Fading vision or impaired judgment and decision-making as a result of growing older can lead to auto accidents, according to the police.

The NPA has asked people 65 and older to think about returning their license.

There were around 17 million people in that age group as of the end of last year, the agency said.

Dementia is another issue that authorities have to deal with as the population of Japan rapidly ages.

The nation will put revisions to the road traffic law into force next March that stipulate enhanced cognitive testing for drivers aged 75 and older.

The system will require drivers of that age to submit a doctor’s certificate to drive a car if they are found to be suffering from a deterioration in memory or in quick judgment and decision-making.

Also, if elderly drivers make mistakes, such as driving the wrong way on a one-way street or failing to stop at a stop sign, they will be immediately subjected to testing for cognitive functions. Their driver’s license will be revoked if they are diagnosed with dementia.