The number of people who voluntarily give up their driver’s licenses has continued to surge in Japan since an older driver struck and killed a mother and her daughter, and injured nine others, in Tokyo in 2019.
The driver, Kozo Iizuka, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison. The 2019 tragedy raised public awareness of accidents involving older drivers.
The number of people who voluntarily surrendered their driver’s licenses in 2019 rose by about 180,000 from the previous year to a record of about 600,000, according to data compiled by the National Police Agency. Drivers age 75 or older accounted for around 60% of the total.
In 2020, the number of people who gave up their licenses fell to about 550,000, presumably because the COVID-19 pandemic discouraged people from visiting authorities to have their licenses canceled.
In December 2019, eight months after the accident, an NPA-appointed panel of experts proposed measures to prevent accidents involving older drivers. The measures included requiring such drivers to pass skill tests to get their licenses renewed.
A June 2020 revision to the road traffic law made skill tests mandatory for drivers age 75 or older with a history of offenses like ignoring a red light and speeding in the past three years.
The revised law also calls for creating a new type of license with which holders can only drive vehicles equipped with safety support systems such as automatic braking.
The government is testing a service in which self-driving vehicles ferry people on predetermined routes to offer a means of transportation in rural areas, where public transportation services are scarce.
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