Amidst the rise in road crashes caused by elderly drivers, the Japanese government is now planning several measures to avoid further incidents. Several recent road crashes involving elderly drivers have driven the public to push for better restrictions and safety measures.
In April, an 87-year-old driver hit a mother and daughter as they were crossing the street while nine pedestrians were also injured. More recently, an 81-year-old man and his wife crashed into an oncoming vehicle and plowed into an intersection. The man and his wife got killed, and several others got injured.
Investigations discovered that the vehicles showed no mechanical problems, and the crashes were attributed to the elderly drivers’ declining skills.
One such preventive measure that the government plans includes issuing licenses which restrict the elderly drivers to only using “safety-enhanced vehicles.” Proposed improvements to safety features include automatic braking systems during emergencies or when the driver mistakenly steps on the gas pedal instead of the brake.
The license is intended to be issued for drivers aged 75 and older. In Japan, 5.63 million driver are aged 75 or older and fatal road crashes were caused by this demographic in 2018 according to a report by Nikkei Asian Review.
Elderly drivers will also be required to take cognitive assessments tests when renewing their licenses. The government can also revoke the license of drivers with diagnosed dementia, and elderly drivers may also voluntarily surrender their licenses.
Addionally, the government is partnering with automobile corporations such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda to mitigate causes of accidents when drivers mistakenly step on the wrong pedal. Toyota has developed a new safety feature which alerts drivers if there is an obstacle in the way as well as limiting acceleration if the gas pedal is stepped on.
According to a government survey, one in four people aged 80 or older still drive in Japan. There are more elderly drivers in Japan’s rural communities due to limited public transportation options. Some elderly drivers cannot give up driving, as they use their cars to drive to work./TISG