• Kyodo

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A record number of elderly drivers aged 75 and over voluntarily gave up their licenses in 2017, the National Police Agency said Saturday.

The total was 252,677, or about 1.5 times the 2016 figure and the highest since the voluntary return system was introduced in 1998, the agency said, citing preliminary data.

Drivers 80 or older who returned their licenses came to 155,289, also up about 1.5 times.

Traffic accidents involving seniors with cognitive impairment have become a serious problem, with some confusing the gas and brake pedals or driving the wrong way on expressways.

In January, a man in his 80s hit two high school girls in Gunma Prefecture, killing one and seriously injuring the other, after ignoring his family’s efforts to prevent him from driving.

Behind the sharp increase in license returns was the introduction of a tougher cognitive test last March. Those 75 or older are required to take the test during license renewals or when ticketed for certain traffic violations.

According to a Cabinet Office survey on elderly drivers last November, 74.3 percent of those 70 or older said they would consider giving up their licenses when they feel their physical ability is declining.

But only 26.3 percent of them said they had thought of doing so when asked by family members or doctors.

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