crime

79-yr-old driver who lost control of car due to heatstroke indicted over fatal accident

30 Comments

A 79-year-old man who lost control of his car due to heatstroke has been indicted for causing an accident that killed one man and injured several other people.

According to police, the car plowed into a line of people who were queuing to access a second floor public pool at the park in Hamura, Tokyo, in August last year. A 72-year-old man was killed, a 2-year-old boy suffered a broken leg and three other people were also injured in the incident.

During police questioning, the driver said he had been playing golf that day and that he had suffered exhaustion and was dizzy before getting into his car, Sankei Shimbun reported Tuesday.

Afterwards, he told police he had no memory of the incident and claimed not to know how his car had entered the area off-limits to vehicles. He was taken to hospital to be treated for heatstroke.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the temperature that day when the man was playing golf was 35.8 degrees

However, prosecutors on Tuesday decided to file charges against the man for reckless driving resulting in death and injury, claiming he was negligent to get behind the wheel of a car when he wasn't feeling well.

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30 Comments
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Heat Stroke is a medical condition that will impair your judgement. If you judgement becomes impaired by nothing you did yourself like drinking, but someone gave you a Mickey, are you responsible? In this case, he was playing golf, a usual activity. But for whatever reason, sun too stroke, too hot, he got heat stroke. I don't think he actually had heat stroke more than heat exhaustion but both are serious conditions. Most likely he didn't drink enough water. You are more susceptible if you are over 50. One of the symptoms is confusion. So can you hold a person who is unknowingly medically ill that lowers his ability to reason. It seems an over reach on part of the prosecutors which is unusual in Japan when justice is questionable. Any country where the prosecutor wins 98% of the time is rigged. Before when Japan had a true jury system, the rate was more in line with the world at 70-85%. BTW, in Japan if you are found not guilty, the prosecutors can keep appealing until they get a guilty. So, do get in trouble for this quote is appropriate here:

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Slum, I agree but I also think age plays a factor in reaction times and eyesight.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The man's age is totally relevant to this.

I disagree. It is his lack of good judgement that is relevant. Lack of good judgement comes in all ages.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Slumdog and tmarie... I totally agree. With the huge numbers of 70+ Japanese still driving on the roads like they are in their 40s and believing they are not their age there will continue to be stories about elderly causing traffic accidents. My Father in Law is a classic example. Whenever I get in the car with him I fear for my life, so I always offer to drive. He drives too fast and too casually. He even complains about the "other" old drivers and how they aren't very good. He is totally serious and doesn't see the irony in what he is saying. ... This guy will pay a big price for his arrogant, selfish and careless attitude in regards to those around him and to his own situation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The man's age is totally relevant to this. Just last night another 78 year old man hit and killed someone in Aichi. Mandatory eye and driving check needs to be done after the age of 70. Yearly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The man's age is irrelevant. My parents are in their 70's and they both drive very well. What IS relevant is the man getting behind the wheel when he was already dizzy. I agree with the prosecutors in that the man was negligent in getting behind the wheel while impaired.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

However that isn't proof that the actual cause of this accident was heatstroke. If it was something else (e.g. a stroke) then he's not guilty.

I disagree. The man got in a car and drove after he had been playing golf that day and had suffered exhaustion and was dizzy. So, he is guilty of negligence in that he drove a car after feeling exhausted and dizzy. It does not matter whether the medical cause was heatstroke or a stroke. He drove when he was aware that he was in no condition to drive. In fact, it is illegal to drive in Japan when you are exhausted, dizzy or otherwise impaired.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It is a all to common situation that has been developing around the world as the ageing population increases, and there are no alternatives to the present day auto. Most elders grow attaining and securing their sense of independence, and the most visible form of independence is the ability for mobility. Seniors want to retain their ability to be independent and have a social life that require mobility to have a semblance of life, and not have to rely on friends, relatives, or other forms of transportation. It is tragic that he had caused a loss of life, but to automatically say that, "due to his age; he should not be driving in the first place"; is not very helpful. Companies are developing cars that can drive themselves and would be an aid to the elderly who want to retain their independence and not be a hindrance to the general population at large. Companies need to get these cars into production; encouraging elders, through some-kind of to trade incentive, in order to replace their old auto with a self-driving model. By having more elderly driving these autonomous self-driving cars it would lessen the number of accidents caused by elder drivers; and they would retain their dignity and independence, push R&D, and decrease the cost of insurance paid by other drivers.

It is easier to know the problem; it is harder to find a solution to the problem.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

So, for once the J police saw through his excuse of not having any memory of the incident and not knowing how his vehicle entered an off limits to cars zone. So many people use this excuse and get away with it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@zteano

You have to keep in mind that he is being charged criminally so the prosecution will have to show that his negligence was particularly egregious to justify criminal sanctions rather than ordinary negligence that would call only for civil compensation.

Motor vehicle negligence is quite controversial. Why should it amount to a crime if someone dies, but merely a civil matter if someone is only injured or property is damaged? The law and charging standards on this are far from clear.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don't understand those that fail to comprehend what 'negligence' means. A motorized vehicle obviously can be a dangerous weapon; it has lots of horsepower, can be fast, and things can go wrong in a split second. It requires the person to be fully aware and in control at all time to drive, failure to understand that, is simply called negligence.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It hard to know what to make of this case.

If he was feeling unwell, then he would have been neligent but only if he realized or should have realized that his driving would have been impaired. Whether this is the first time he has ever felt the effects of heatstroke will be relevant. (This seems similar to cases of hyperglycemia where diabetics cause an accident after injecting too much insulin)

However, I get the feeling that this 79 year old man may have done himself in by exaggerating the effects of his heat stroke with the mistaken belief that it would get him off the hook. Defendants often put forward what they believe is a good defence when it is no defence at all. Its a good example of why you should never lie if you say anything, and keep your mouth shut until you speak to a lawyer no matter how insistant the police are in extracting information from you.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I see drivers ALL THE TIME in Tokyo with one hand on the phone texting and looking up every few seconds. That is the real hazard.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Gerard - Everyone over 65 does get a free health check every year. Wrong. Only those that had a FT job or paid into the national health care system. There is a massive number of people in this country that have zero health care.

This guy reminds me of many old farts I see here - arrogrant and don't care about anyone else. Someone with a brain and a little bit of commo sense doesn't drive when they are dizzy and not feeling well. Throw the book at him and don't allow him to drive.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@Chikuyokei

Sorry... but it is age. No matter how fit the person is, age will decrease your visual range, reflexes and even attention. Three things that are important in driving.

That other people (younger) are not fit to derive.. that is true but, that is in an individual level. If we talk in general level, the physical an mental skills that you need to drive are not present pass certain age (give it +65)

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

If he was suffering from Heat Stroke, he would not be thinking straight. He also probably did not not know he was suffering from heat stroke. Either he is not guilty because of mental incapacity from heat stroke or the Country Club is guilty of serving up too much sun and heat then allowing the man to drive.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The argument seems to ride on two points. His age 65+ and heat stroke. Negligence by anyone at any age can cause accidents. Younger people may also cause accidents by not thinking straight. I would tend to lean toward his playing golf in extreme heat not his age . His ac was on at the time I suppose but he may have consumed the wrong liquids as many golfers may do at the club house. Who knows for sure?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Gerard - Everyone over 65 does get a free health check every year. It's actually everyone over 40, but the health checks do not determine a persons ability to drive. However, in this case, it is unlikely any health check could have predicted the outcome. The prosecutors have it right. If he felt dizzy and exhausted he should not have been driving and he should be charged with negligence causing death.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"According to police, the car plowed into a line of people who were queuing to access a second floor public pool at the park in Hamura, Tokyo, in August last year. A 72-year-old man was killed, a 2-year-old boy suffered a broken leg and three other people were also injured in the incident."

WOW i've been to that swimming area before in Hamura tokyo-to, its close to Fussa tokyo-to, near Y.A.B. a lot of my friends who work on Y.A.B also live in Hamura-shi ... nice area

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Gerard is right.

An annual checkup is a good idea - even if it's related only to driving ability. My mom drove (safely) till age 91. She sensibly stopped driving on highways in her early 80s, though, and stuck to low-speed roads after that. Where she lived (Ontario, Canada) there were annual driver's license renewal checks for drivers over 70 (vision, reaction time, etc.). She passed every time - even passing the vision test without her glasses. Every country with elderly drivers needs something like those annual renewal checks.

Daniel - it's not AGE, it's fitness to drive that matters. Judging by accident reports on this site, there are large numbers of drivers of all ages who are unfit to drive!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Gerard I completely agree with you but once the bureaucratic machine starts creaking these simple tests will be another hassle with no result.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Interesting comments. I think anyone over 65 should do a yearly health check that includes a part to see if you are still fit to drive a car. Maybe a simple 1 hour test with a drivers instructor.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

He was taken to hospital to be treated for heatstroke.

... but what was the medical opinion of the doctors who treated him? Was it heatstroke or was it a stroke?

To me this seems like a critical gap in the argument here. The police, who have no medical training, seem to have decided it was heatstroke, and that's all this article reports. However that isn't proof that the actual cause of this accident was heatstroke. If it was something else (e.g. a stroke) then he's not guilty.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

First of all.. a 79 years old should not even drive, regardless of his health and capabilities, he is old enough.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

Let him go. He's 79 for Chrissake. What are you going to do, put him in jail?

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

The larger social issue is whether older drivers will be allowed to keep driving until they have an accident that definitively proves they cannot drive anymore.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that he should have slept in the car for a bit before venturing home.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Causious drivers give up driving when they reatch 70s or have heavy ill. There can be no extenuating for this reckless man.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

To be honest I think its difficult to know whether it was heatstroke, exhaustion, or the fact that he was 79. Certainly all of these factors have some role to play. 79 year olds who go out golfing all day are going to be exhausted, but they often think they can do all the things they used to be able to do.

I do agree with the prosecutors, that he was negligent.... however I cant help but feel sympathy for the driver too. It does sound like an accident, and I hope they will take into account his age and previous clean record (I assume.)

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

During police questioning, the driver said he had been playing golf that day and that he had suffered exhaustion and was dizzy before getting into his car,

However, prosecutors on Tuesday decided to file charges against the man, claiming he was negligent to get behind the wheel of a car when he wasn’t feeling well.

I agree with the prosecutors.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

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