After accidents involving elderly, Japan eyes license restricting drivers to cars with safety features


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed relevant Cabinet ministers Tuesday to accelerate work toward introducing a limited driver’s license that will allow holders to only drive vehicles with safety support functions.

The government hopes to put the move into practice by the end of March 2020. The planned launch of the limited license is designed to prevent car accidents resulting from elderly drivers mistaking the accelerator for the brake or making other driving errors after a recent spate of such accidents.

“We need to promote the adoption of vehicles equipped with automatic brakes and functions to curb acceleration when the accelerator is pressed mistakenly for the brake,” Abe said at the day’s meeting of a future investment panel he chairs.

The government plans to help push for vehicles equipped with the latest safety features for elderly drivers.

According to the government, the number of fatal car accidents caused by elderly drivers was double that of accidents triggered by younger drivers last year. Data from the secretariat of the panel show that the number of fatal accidents per 100,000 driver’s license holders aged 75 or over stood at eight last year, higher than the 3.4 per 100,000 figure for younger holders of the license.

In line with the aging of society, people aged 75 or over accounted for 6.8 percent of all driver’s license holders in the nation in 2018, up from 3.8 percent in 2008.

In June, the government indicated its plan to figure out a direction to take on limited driver’s licenses by the end of March 2020 as a part of measures to handle elderly people with dementia.

At Tuesday’s meeting, some participants said that many of the recent accidents involving vehicles driven by elderly people could have been prevented if safety technologies being developed had been installed on the vehicles, stressing the need to introduce vehicles furnished with such functions to lessen the damage from crashes resulting from driving errors.

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