One in 4 people aged 80 or older still drive, a government survey on the transport habits of those aged 60 or above showed Tuesday.
The percentage of the elderly who said they drive was higher in rural areas, where public transportation services are limited, indicating cars are indispensable tools for the elderly to go shopping or visit hospitals.
Meanwhile, the ratio of fatal accidents involving drivers aged 75 or older among all such incidents has been on the rise in rapidly graying Japan, increasing from 8.7 percent in 2008 to 14.8 percent in 2018, according to the National Police Agency.
In April, an 87-year-old former government official was involved in a car crash in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district that killed a 3-year-old girl and her mother and injured six other passersby.
In May last year, a 90-year-old driver was arrested on suspicion of running a red light and hitting four pedestrians in the city of Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, killing one of them.
“Driving becomes more difficult as people’s cognitive functions decline with old age,” a Cabinet Office official said. “Securing a mode of transportation when going out is a key challenge.”
The survey was conducted from November to December last year targeting 3,000 men and women aged 60 or older across Japan, of whom 1,870 responded.
Asked about their modes of transportation in a multiple-response question, 56.6 percent said they drive a car by themselves, while 56.4 percent said they walk.
The number of drivers decreased with age, but 45.7 percent of people between 75 and 79 and 26.4 percent of those aged 80 or older said they drive.
Among respondents who said they drive a car by themselves, those who said they drive “almost every day” reached 67.4 percent across age brackets.
Of people aged 80 or above, 58.7 percent said they do so.
By region, 72.9 percent in cities with a population of less than 100,000 and 75.5 percent in towns and villages said they drive, compared to 50.0 percent in central Tokyo and other major cities.
A total of 80.2 percent said they would stop driving after reaching a certain age or if they felt something interfered with their ability to drive, such as vision impairment. But 11.5 percent said they would continue to drive regardless of age or minor physical problems.
The results of the survey will be included in the government’s 2019 Annual Report on the Aging Society, which is to be approved by the Cabinet later this month.