Authorities, families plead for elderly drivers to turn in their licenses


"I'd been warning my elderly father, 'It's not only your problem. As the first-born son, if you cause an accident, it becomes my responsibility.'

"I was already concerned after he came home with the outside rear-view mirror smashed up, and I'd been nagging him to quit. But he kept ignoring me, and I was thinking perhaps the only way to stop him for good would be to let the air of his tires."

The headline in Shukan Gendai (Feb 3) asks, "Elderly drivers: Are you determined to keep operating your vehicle, even if it means spending time in prison past the age of 80?"

The speaker is the son of Maebashi City resident Kiyokatsu Kawabata, age 85. On Jan 9, Kawabata's car crossed the center line on a country road and struck a car coming towards him from the opposite direction, after which he careened off the road, running down two high school girls who were en route to their matriculation ceremony. Several weeks later, both remained hospitalized with severe injuries.

Viewing a dashboard cam video of the accident, it appeared that Kawabata had confused the brake and accelerator pedals.

Kawabata senior was arrested on suspicion of negligent driving resulting in injury, which if found guilty provides for up to seven years imprisonment or a fine of up to 1 million yen. Masato Takahashi, an attorney, believes the severity of the two victims' injuries makes it likely that Kawabata will indeed serve time, "Perhaps three years or more," he told the magazine.

"My father operated a vehicle maintenance facility, and was very obstinate about motor vehicles in general," the aforementioned son continued. "My mother is 80 years old, but several years ago I was able to talk her into giving up her license.

"The police asked me if he suffered from senile dementia, but that's not a disease for which you can be entirely certain, and all I could tell them was I didn't think he had it."

In Japan, people who wish to renew their driver's license past age 75 are required to be tested for dementia, but nonetheless their numbers continue to increase. The figure reached 5.13 million in 2016. The same year, according to National Police Agency statistics, the number of people age 75 and over who voluntarily turned in their licenses was 162,000. That figure reached 232,000 in 2017, showing that authorities' efforts to persuade the elderly to give up driving is making a modicum of progress.

One-time winner of the Naoki Prize literary award and presently age 69, Ichiriki Yamamoto voluntarily gave up his driver's license after he turned 60. Why?

"A main reason was concerns over the deterioration of my eyesight," Yamamoto is quoted as saying. "The optometrist where I buy my eyeglasses said that they could give me a pair that would make it possible to pass the driving test, but the condition of my eyes would still carry risks.

"I felt that should I have a serious driving accident it would spoil everything I've accomplished up to now. The one reason I hesitated was that I love to go touring on a large-displacement motorcycle -- I went through a lot of trouble to obtain the special license for it when I was 46 -- and I had so many memories of the wonderful trips I took. But I realized a serious accident would spoil those memories too."

A native of Kochi Prefecture, Yamamoto told his audience during a regional lecture tour that he had given up his license upon turning 60. Now I go around on one of those bicycles with an electric assist motor. It's not a bad ride at all."

In the aging process, even if a person doesn't develop dementia, one still faces decline of vision, hearing and physical capability," says Takuji Nakamura, a specialist in traffic systems who serves as an advisor to an NPO whose Japanese name translates as The Research Group for Supporting Safe Driving by the Elderly (Koreisha Anzen Unten Shien Kenkyukai). "The ability to make spontaneous decisions slows. Many drivers already know from common sense to avoid driving on roads made slippery from the rain, or when the daylight begins to fade. Each one of these conditions moves them a step closer to the decision to hand in their driver's license."

The son of Kiyokatsu Kawabata quoted at the beginning of this article told Shukan Gendai, "Things have been really rough for me too. I don't know what to do. On the one hand I feel like going to visit the two victims at the hospital. But even if I do, I'm not sure what I can say to them."

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I own a number of businesses and drive daily to support my businesses employing hundreds of people that depend upon my support. It would be very difficult in business without a car.

Drivers license should be issued based on testing of capability. August 8th I will turn ninety.

A few months ago I tested excellent and received a drivers license for another three years. I am willing to be tested any time for my driving skills.

Now lets hear from families- that can tell us some scare stories- about those idiotic kids that are driving their cars in and out of traffic at high speeds, causing most traffic accidents and killing loved ones.

There must be many stories to tell.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Drivers license should be issued based on testing of capability. August 8th I will turn ninety. 

Ninety! Congratulations to you.

Keep on truckin'... : )

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Thank you FizzBit.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Now lets hear from families- that can tell us some scare stories- about those idiotic kids that are driving their cars in and out of traffic at high speeds, causing most traffic accidents and killing loved ones.

As one of those young people driving in and out of traffic at speeds, i can tell you there would be no need to if people obeyed the proper limits and didn't just drive 40km everywhere.

Most people i have seen overtaking people at speeds do so when people in front of them are driving far too slow or sit in the overtaking lane a slow speeds.

I think there should be a test for older drivers, my grandfather was driving like a maniac late into his seventies and shouldn't of had a license.

Also speed is not the only factor, speed itself is not an issue depending on the car, if you drive a turbo charged Mercedes with four ventilated disc brakes your going to be stopping faster then the idiot hooning around in their kei car with drum brakes and bald tires.

Most the acceidents occur when people don't stop at red lights, don't indicate properly or my favourite the Japanese habit of just stopping in the middle of the road and putting your hazard lights on, I've seen people do this on highways, at the top of hills just before the top so you can't see what's coming in the opposite direction and also when people park in turning lanes.

Lets not even get into no parking zones where cops never fine people.

The real issue here isn't speed its basic trafic law knowledge, knowing your cars limits, control and distracted drivers.

And just for anecdotes sake i drive a turbo charged wrx in Japan and the only car accident i ever had was when an old man reversed into my car when it was stationary in a car park with both my hazards and headlights on, apparently he didn't bother checking his rear view mirror.

Another friend of mine was driving in nigatta when he was rear ended by an old women who didn't give herself enough braking distance.

Another time i was at a shopping center car park about to get in my car when an elderly Japanese gentleman came up to me and asked me to put his automatic car into drive for him because he didn't know how too, how the hell he got out of the car park i don't know, but he was far more of a risk then i was.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Hire a driver if your family can afford it

Driving Miss Daisy

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Very well, take way their license. Now who will drive them to their doctors offices? Shopping? Visiting friends and family? The local government or company office that requires an in person visit for some reason?

Who will do that for them?


Most elderly people I know no longer like to drive because there are more and drivers on the road who drive dangerously and badly. But they also have no choice.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Most places in the US do not have efficient mass transit systems. Makes it harder to decide to stop driving.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Our local council stopped the buses about 25 years ago. The population is getting older and it is 16 km to the nearest supermarket (or anything else) so what are the people supposed to do?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is wrong! Elderly drivers are only responsible for less than 10% of road fatalities. This cognitive and skill testing should be extended to every driver. I'm going to go as far as to say, most Japanese drivers are hopeless! Have you ever watched them try to reverse park a car? They'll swing the car from lock to lock and open the door and stick their head out to see where they are going and still need three or four attempts. They have no idea about how to use mirrors. Opening the car door for reversing is illegal where I come from and carries a pretty hefty fine to boot. Then, you get onto the narrow roads. Have you noticed how most drivers need at least a meter on each side of their car or they just panic and stop? And, let's add the drivers that only drive 60cm in front of them and have no idea what's going on behind them. The wait until they are 10 meters from where they want to turn and just barge over or stop completely to make a lane change. Just bloody hopeless!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are smalls cars that don't go above 50 km/h that are very suit for elderly people. They are not very expansive. They could too build cars for the elders with more driving assistance. Many people above 75 are in good health both physically and in mind - even younger and wiser.

In general, it is a mistakes to want to control everything. It is not from love the son here want to control his dad's life, but because he does not want to be bothered by him.

Because you are old you are suddenly not allowed to make mistakes anymore and have cars accident if your son is a dick. You are senile to not put your son's freedom above yours. Should elderly people have the right to buy knives ? To eat dangerous food ? Where is the limit ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan isn't country for old men

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The Driver's License is not just for driving. It is also for identity. Perhaps they can issue a non-driving driver's license?

In the very near future in America, you will need two IDs in order to get on a flight with your ticket. If Japan copies America's leadership and does similar, the driver's license will become not just handy, but a necessity.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Driver's License is not just for driving. It is also for identity. Perhaps they can issue a non-driving driver's license?

These exist in Japan. I don't remember exactly what they are called though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Please let us know Strangerland. Thanks for looking it up and letting us know.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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