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Elderly drivers – are you aware of the suffering that results when you cause an accident?

27 Comments

One December day in 2016, an 80-year-old man drove to his neighborhood supermarket in rural Saitama Prefecture. In the parking lot, thinking to brake to let a woman pass, he hit the accelerator instead.

It was an early instance of the sort of accident that has been occurring lately with alarming frequency. In April, a car driven by a man in his late 80s struck and killed two mothers and a child at a pedestrian crossing in Tokyo. In Chiba in May, five nursery school children were injured by a car out of control. The driver was in his mid-60s. It seems to keep happening: drivers mistake the accelerator for the brake, with catastrophic consequences. No one has adequately explained how such a mistake is possible, let alone why it keeps recurring. Shukan Gendai (June 22-29) draws an appalling conclusion: “You never know when it can happen to you.”

Does “it” mean you can become a victim anytime, or a perpetrator? It could mean both.

“Koichi Yoneda” (a pseudonym) was horrified at what he’d done. The woman he struck, who was in her 50s, wasn’t dead, but she was seriously injured. An ambulance was called; the police arrived; the woman was taken to hospital and Yoneda arrested.

Generally these incidents are covered from the victim’s point of view, but Shukan Gendai takes us into Yoneda’s world. Its headline reveals its purpose: “Elderly drivers – are you aware of the suffering that results when you cause an accident?” The story goes on to prove that it’s not only the victim who suffers. Yoneda’s entire life has caved in.

He was soon released. Criminal court proceedings ended with a suspended sentence. The financial damage – the woman’s treatment came to some 12 million yen – was covered by insurance. In that sense, Yoneda got off lightly. Even his driver’s license was not terminated – only suspended for a year.

But there’s more to punishment than official sanctions. To begin with the driver’s license: though entitled to drive, he will never, he vows, touch the wheel of a car again. If only he had stopped driving in time! But how could he have known? In 60 years of driving he had never had an accident, never even got a speeding ticket. Shortly before the accident he’d renewed his license, taking the requisite test for dementia signs. He showed none.

His neighbors, with whom he’d always been on good terms, now shun him. There’s no malice in this, he tells Shukan Gendai. He quite understands them: “You can’t talk and laugh and pass the time of day with someone who has done damage like this.”

Ashamed to show his face, he took to almost never leaving the house. Staying home all day made him wretched. Going out made him more so. The strain intensified quarrels with his wife, who came to look on him with loathing. He was a “criminal,” and had tainted her too, she said, in the neighbors’ eyes. She eventually left him to live with their son and his family in Tokyo.

His deepest desire, he says, is to apologize in person to the woman he hit. She absolutely refuses to see him. To this day she can’t walk properly. “Every day I pray to the Buddha for her recovery,” says Yoneda.

Shukan Gendai’s point, in telling this story and others like it, is to warn aging drivers to surrender their licenses before similar disaster strikes them. But Yoneda himself is a case in point showing why so many hesitate to do so. His home is an hour’s walk from the nearest train station. Doing the normal rounds of daily life is extremely difficult without independent transportation – the more so as lower back and leg pain make walking so difficult. There are regular hospital visits, too, which without a car are so onerous. There’s bus service, which for want of anything better must do, but total reliance on it definitely constricts one’s horizons.

An additional hardship in Yoneda’s case: he shrinks from shopping at the supermarket where the accident happened, which makes him dependent on the one in the next town.

Bleakly, he contemplates his prospects. “There’s no hope for me, no hope at all,” he says.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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Even his driver’s license was not terminated – only suspended for a year.

This is a problem...an 80 year old guy has this sort of an accident but his license is not cancelled...WTH?

Its good that he himself decided not to drive afterwards but the license should have been cancelled, how can the authorities just suspend it for a year and give it back when he is 81 and his cognitive ability would have deteriorated....I don,t get the authorities thinking in this case.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

But kudos to Shukan Gendai for publishing a story like this.....this really is a sad situation for everyone, both the victim and the driver ...hard no to feel sorry for everyone involved. If the story makes even a few pople reconsider their driving , it will be the one positive thing that comes out of this.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Its easy to blame the elderly when there are no reasonable assistance systems for them. I am sure its easier for them in Tokyo but the government hardly pays attention to the multitude of old people who live in the country with no trains and not nearly enough buses or stops.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I'm nearly 70 but gave up driving and cars more than 40 years ago.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

> garypenJuly 2  02:33 pm JST

What about young people, drinkers, tired people etc

What about them?

Statistically ages 16 to 25 cause more accident suffering than those over 70.

Taxi drivers in Japan are considered the worst drivers with the best lawyers and insurance companies.

Everyday, I witness about 3 out of 5 drivers texting and driving. This includes expressways. Texting at over 100kph!!!!

Why is everyone so focused only on elderly? My dad is 86 and still has a perfect driving record though he recently has reduced his distance to local shops.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Good article - but all drivers of every age need to be aware of the suffering, the destroyed lives, the possible terrible ramifications of a small mistake. Could happen at any age - just a few days ago a 17 year old driver hit and killed a 70 year old on a bicycle in Yokosuka because the driver was changing settings on his car navi. Be careful!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

marcelito,

You sum it up nicely. As you say, a sad situation for everyone, including the driver. And I agree with you - why was his license not cancelled?

Mandatory yearly testing over, say, the age of 75, maybe earlier if a driver causes this kind of accident. It wouldn't be foolproof, but it would be something.

And why not lifetime or at least long-term license cancellation for anyone, of any age, if they drive carelessly/drunk/stoned whatever, and cause this kind of damage?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Clearly a broken man.

Had my Mother been victim to such a tragedy, forgiveness for what could be described as a momentary lapse in concentration with disastrous life changing consequences is not something I could contemplate.

Should this man be condemned enterally to public ostracization?. Was the cause of his actions attributed to any criminal act or malice? Forgiveness is as uncompromising as determining culpability

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I’m 70 and been driving since I was 12, but I am fully aware that the day might come when I will not drive. I’ve already been telling my wife that when that time comes, I will give it up. No way will I be the cause of danger to anyone. I’m consciously keeping aware of my driving abilities, response times, things to do with safety. I’ve already noticed that I absolutely MUST look left, right, left, right again, then proceed with caution.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I’m 70 and been driving since I was 12, but I am fully aware that the day might come when I will not drive. I’ve already been telling my wife that when that time comes, I will give it up. No way will I be the cause of danger to anyone.

Respect.

 I am sure its easier for them in Tokyo but the government hardly pays attention to the multitude of old people who live in the country with no trains and not nearly enough buses or stops.

Indeed govt needs to do more for the countryside elderly....public transport should be free for people over certain age ( even earlier  if they give up their license ) and Uber like car sharing services should be allowed to counter the prohibitevely expensive taxi fares in countryside ...plenty of overpaid bureaucrats with nothing to do can be put to work on devising workable solutions.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

What about young people, drinkers, tired people etc.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

The government could refuse to renew the license of anyone over a certain age involved in such a single-vehicle accident in which someone other than the driver is injured - but won't. Driving is a privilege, it can be taken away.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Surely not just accidents caused by elderly drivers that cause suffering?  Stupid article.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I live in the countryside and my town does have on-demand taxis and minibuses for old people. The number of regular scheduled buses and trains in Japan that make a loss is also staggering. Buses are expensive in inaka, but it's because almost all of them are deep in the red. They run because the government pays the rest.

Such services aren't anything like as convenient as having your own vehicle of course, and could probably be improved in some ways. It is incorrect however to say the government is "doing nothing".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I never drive anymore. I prefer trains and surfing instead.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wow, ok so this says a lot more with what’s wrong with this guy’s family, neighbors, and society too, than what he did.

He didn’t drive under the influence, it was a mistake. But his family and neighbors shun him as a criminal? Isn’t that retarded? And it’s ruined his life...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Most people here think driving "slowly" and never getting a ticket means they are "safety drivers." What I have seen is most of them don't drive very far or very long and aren't used to the variety of situations people who drive regularly face. Some people even drive automatics and use both feet while doing it. The part about the neighbors has me wondering: You can't say hello or how's it going, etc just because I caused a car accident? I always feel this country is full of cold detached people who can't show sympathy or empathy well and this just reinforces that feeling.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

public transport should be free for people over certain age ( even earlier if they give up their license ) 

It should be for anyone who cannot drive, particularly for people with disabilities that prevent them from ever being able to obtain a license for the first time. Non-drivers pay tax money out the nose all through their lifetime to support an infrastructure they can't fully use.

Perhaps there should be a huge tax rebate for being a non-driver, or a much bigger annual fee to have a license. As long as the current system is in place, elderly drivers and others who shouldn't really be driving anymore are going to keep their licenses, because there's almost no downside to having one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Did Prince Phillip answer this question too?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What about them? This is a discussion about elderly drivers.

Is it really ?

The driver was in his mid-60s.

If someone is not too old to work there should not be too old to drive ?

So, we can talk about about people of old age and byebye the mid-60s or people which have diminished capacity which include :

young people, drinkers, tired people etc.

But I am pretty sure it is more convenient to bash on elderly or supposedly elderly.

Or we can also focus on individual car.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The title of the article could have just done away with the words Elderly drivers, it fits anybody at any age, except for the focus on this one old guy in the article. Once had a friend that was drunk while driving and he killed another man in a head on collision, he never got over it, they let him go to work and after work he returned to the prison, they let him at least support his family while serving time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A year or so ago, my wife, then about 70, was driving out of our condominium complex to go shopping. Having been up in the wee hours, she fell asleep at the wheel, the car crashing against a wall. She escaped injury, but the vehicle had to be scrapped. She took that as a sign that our driving days should be declared over. I initially balked at that but then accepted her judgment. In all my years of driving, I was involved in only one accident--when a drunk driver crashed into my car from behind, causing me great inconvenience but no injury. I was, however, never a terribly skillful driver and may even have been a stereotypical example of noro-noro unten. And it's a relief not to have the responsibility of being behind the wheel...Still, I have mixed feelings, especially as the media seem to have taken up elderly-driver-bashing as a trendy cause and as an opportunity for virtue-signaling.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is it only the elderly who have accidents?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Elderly drivers are focused on here. Sad story. Let's not forget that the same thing in larger numbers happen to many, many younger, much younger drivers. Truck drivers, taxi drivers, student drivers, male, female from all parts of life. A movement trying to make elderly people villains and force them off the road is a dangerous trend.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What about young people, drinkers, tired people etc.

What about them? This is a discussion about elderly drivers. The rest are irrelevant to the conversation but someone always has to bring them up.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

What about young people, drinkers, tired people etc

What about them?

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

Great! this makes my heart warm to know people like him are suffering, hopefully it will get much worse for him from now on.

If you drive a multi-ton piece of metal, better make sure you dont make mistakes.. because if you do , you are liable for every single piece of suffering caused.

I am more inclined to feel sorry to woman, who is probably a mother, just going shopping or with kids and suddenly all her life is destroyed or her family is dead because someone over 60 couldnt double check what he is pressing with his leg.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

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