An 86-year-old man who was arrested for hitting two high school students while driving in Maebashi, Gunma, killing one and injuring another, pleaded not guilty to reckless driving resulting in death and injury at the opening session of his trial on Wednesday.
The Maebashi branch of the Gunma District Court heard that prior to the accident at around 8:25 a.m. on Jan 9, Kiyokatsu Kawabata had repeatedly ignored his family's request not to drive as he had recently caused a minor accident.
The two girls -- Miku Oshima, 18, and Sakura Ota, 16 -- were hit by Kawabata’s car as they were heading to their high school on their bicycles for an opening ceremony for the new term. Ota was run down first and Oshima was also hit before the man's vehicle overturned after bumping into a wall. They both fell into a coma. Oshima recovered, but Ota died.
Kawabata’s defense said the accident occurred before he realized what had happened. There was no sign at the accident site that brakes had been applied. Kawabata said that he had not heard any warning from his doctor that he shouldn’t drive.
In recent years, the rate of traffic accidents caused by people aged 75 or older in Japan has been on the increase.
Japan has begun implementing a stricter cognitive function test for elderly people who wish to renew their driver's license as authorities bid to curb the rise of serious traffic accidents. The government has also been campaigning for elderly drivers to voluntarily give up their licenses.© Kyodo/Japan Today