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Over 80% of elderly drivers involved in fatal accidents in Japan drove without incident in the preceding 3 years: police agency

JIJI

More than 80 percent of drivers aged 75 or older who caused fatal accidents in 2016 had not been involved in any traffic accidents or violations in the preceding three years, according to a survey by the National Police Agency.

The survey result shows that many of the elderly drivers ended up involved in serious crashes without any prior incidents that could foreshadow a fatal accident. It also indicates the difficulties faced by elderly drivers as they consider whether they should voluntarily surrender their driver’s licenses.

Elderly drivers “should not be overconfident that they are all right, even if they have not caused any accidents or committed any traffic violations,” an NPA official warned. “We’d like you to use a police consultation service if you feel uneasy about driving in any way.”

According to the agency, of 425 elderly drivers who caused fatal accidents in 2016, 356 — or about 84 percent — had experienced no traffic accidents in the past three years. Fifty-three drivers had one accident, while six had two and four had four.

Of the total, 360 drivers, or about 85 percent, had committed no traffic violations, with 49 violating a rule once, eight twice and one five or more times.

In cognitive function tests conducted mainly at the time of license renewals, 34 elderly drivers, or 8 percent, showed signs of dementia. A total of 180 drivers, or 42.4 percent, were judged to be at risk of suffering declines in cognitive functions, while 211, or 49.6 percent, were free of problems.

Failure to stop at designated locations accounted for many of the traffic violations committed by the elderly drivers, while cases of jumping red lights were also confirmed.

Many offenses also occurred that are difficult to link with declines in physical functions, such as seat belt violations.

The revised Road Traffic Act, aimed at strengthening dementia checks for drivers aged 75 or older, came into force in March last year. From that point until the end of the year, 46,911 drivers showed signs of dementia in cognitive tests. Of that number, 1,351 had their licenses revoked or suspended after they were diagnosed by doctors as suffering from dementia.

In 2017, a record 253,937 elderly drivers voluntarily gave up their driver’s licenses.

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