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To postpone the aging process, keep on driving, article urges seniors

15 Comments
A woman posts an elderly driver sticker on a car. Photo: iStock/banabana-san

During the New Year holiday period, TV news reported a number of traffic accidents. One involved a driver who, while waiting for the traffic light to change, was rear-ended by a car traveling at a high rate of speed. Another mishap concerned a driver attempting to enter an expressway via the exit ramp. In both cases, elderly drivers were judged to be at fault.

A common type of accidents involving seniors behind the wheel is so-called pedal misapplication, also referred to as unintended acceleration or sudden acceleration syndrome.

Nikkan Gendai (Jan 19) recalled a highly publicized accident in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district that occurred on April 19, 2019, in which 87-year-old retired bureaucrat Kozo Iizuka lost control of his Toyota Prius, ran a red light and raced through two more intersections. He was estimated to have been traveling at about 96 kph at the time he struck the pedestrians, killing a mother and child and injuring nine others.

During his trial Iizuka repeatedly testified he "had no recollection" of continuing to press the gas pedal, and blamed the accident on some sort of vehicle malfunction. In September 2021, the court found the 90-year-old Iizuka guilty and sentenced him to five years imprisonment.

Be that as it may, the government has not issued any reports that specifically indicate elderly drivers suffer from a higher rate of accidents than do younger age segments.

Actually, writes Hideki Wada, a psychiatrist specializing in geriatric issues and author of last year's bestselling "Hachijissai no Kabe" (The Age 80 Barrier), to the extent that they are healthy, continuing to drive will help seniors ward off the ravages of age. And therefore they should resist pressure from the authorities to surrender their license and continue driving.

Are seniors really such a threat? Citing 2021 accident statistics broken down by age segment, Wada pointed out that drivers in the 16 to 19 year-old segment had 1,044 accidents per 100,000 population -- more than double that of drivers aged 80 to 84, who had 430 accidents per 100,000. And accidents among drivers aged 20 to 24 were still higher, at 606 per 100,000, than were accidents by drivers aged 85 and above, who had 524 accidents per 100,000.

The low accident rates among drivers in the age 65-69, 70-74 and 75-79 segments -- who are treated as elderly in government statistics -- compare favorably with younger and middle-aged adults.

Perhaps, writes Wada tongue-in-cheek, this explains why a 90-year-old man was hired to run drugs in the true-to-life 2018 Clint Eastwood film "The Mule."

According to research published by the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology driving is a healthy activity. This is borne out by a study finding that adults age 65 and older who had ceased driving had an eight-fold higher risk for requiring some degree of care, either at home or institutional, than did those who continued to operate a vehicle.

Another study conducted at Tsukuba University reported similar findings, with the ratio of seniors who ceased driving showing a 2.2-fold higher need for care than those who continued.

"Elderly persons who surrender their licenses and stop driving give up their means of mobility, which considerably reduces their range of movement," Wada writes. "In addition to lessening their interaction with others and social activities, degeneration in the functions of their legs and back becomes unavoidable, thereby diminishing their quality of life. Which ultimately leads to decline in brain activity."

Dr Wada believes the characteristic accidents among seniors such as pedal misapplication and driving up exit ramps may possibly be related to the prescribing of certain medications, and promises to take up that issue in a future column.

© Japan Today

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Actually, writes Hideki Wada, a psychiatrist specializing in geriatric issues and author of last year's bestselling "Hachijissai no Kabe" (The Age 80 Barrier), to the extent that they are healthy, continuing to drive will help seniors ward off the ravages of age. And therefore they should resist pressure from the authorities to surrender their license and continue driving.

Given the number of horrific traffic accidents involving senior drivers in Japan, and the audience of seniors that read print media like Nikkan Gendai, this seems like very dangerous advice.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

Subsidised public transport may be a safer way to allow the elderly to travel and socialise.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Quite an argumentative help for seniors if they are ever forced to cancel driving and giving away their driving licenses. It’s again own well-being vs society interests, like it is with those corona masks too, for example.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There are two times in our lives when whether or not we should drive a motor vehicle comes into question.

The first is when we are young, and the second is when we are old.

How to quantify the period when we are too young to drive is solved by choosing numbers to differentiate adulthood from whatever it is that comes before. Sometimes the number chosen is 15, and sometimes the number is as high as 18. Since this age group of citizens have little influence at the polls, they cannot quibble about the correct age to begin driving.

The second time in our lives when it is appropriate to deny driving privileges is when we are infirm, mentally or physically. Physical infirmness would understandably seem to be linked to age, but is there a definite number that says to the world, "Stop This Person From Driving!" Some people may be terrible drivers all of their life, while some people drive satisfactorily to age 100. So, any discussion about denying driving rights to seniors should reject out of hand pegging a denial to a set age.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

There are many ways for the elderly to maintain their mental faculties without endangering others.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Personally I would let old people drive provided their motor skills and eyesight are up to it.

The thing the Japanese police are (justifiably) worried about is the % of fatal (i.e., big) accidents elderly drivers are responsible for, not any other kind of accident or wayward driving. I believe many big accidents could be avoided with automatic braking and devices that cut out when the accelerator is mistakenly floored by a panicked driver who thinks they are slamming the brakes. Modern cars are pretty safe, so it takes a big collision to kill someone in them. Technology for avoiding or mitigating such big collisions is now quite advanced.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As Kohakuebisu said - I believe that fatal accidents involving elderly drivers 75+ far exceeds that of younger drivers 18 ~ 30.

That's as I recall Japan Police Agency stats.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Terrible advice !!!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The low accident rates among drivers in the age 65-69, 70-74 and 75-79 segments -- who are treated as elderly in government statistics -- compare favorably with younger and middle-aged adults.

So what's the beef?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Are seniors really such a threat? Citing 2021 accident statistics broken down by age segment, Wada pointed out that drivers in the 16 to 19 year-old segment had 1,044 accidents per 100,000 population -- more than double that of drivers aged 80 to 84, who had 430 accidents per 100,000. And accidents among drivers aged 20 to 24 were still higher, at 606 per 100,000, than were accidents by drivers aged 85 and above, who had 524 accidents per 100,000.

More important statistics than simply total accidents would be a breakdown of accidents by the number of fatalities, the value of property damage, etc. Also, per 100,000 drivers is less revealing than per miles driven.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Also, per 100,000 drivers is less revealing than per miles driven.

True. Also, the figures in the articles refer to numbers of accidents per 100,000 population and not drivers. So if a smaller proportion of elderly people drive than among younger age groups, the numbers don't tell us much.

Similarly, the finding that "adults age 65 and older who had ceased driving had an eight-fold higher risk for requiring some degree of care" is a little unclear. Did they cease driving because they needed care or did they need care because they ceased driving?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

albaleo

"Also, per 100,000 drivers is less revealing than per miles driven."

True. Also, the figures in the articles refer to numbers of accidents per 100,000 population and not drivers.

Wow. I didn't realize at first that they were referring to population, not drivers. "Per drivers" was lacking a bit in accuracy to each age group's safety record. But "per population" is completely irrelevant, and has zero bearing on driver safety by age group. None.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A young boy was on trial for running over cars. When the judge said, "What have you to say for yourself before I sentence you to a month in a reform school ?"

"Sir, why can't I run over cars for fun when cars run over people to kill them?" The judge smiled and said, "Young man, you may go home now."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's been frequently stated in the press, but the big concern the Japanese police is the % of fatal accidents elderly drivers are responsible for.

However, as other posters point out, the way in which this and other stats are collected may be problematic and this may be a non-issue, or conversely the tip of the iceberg of other problems.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They conveniently forgot nondriver in the article. These people are right in between but they just go the stopping driving bad.

Also, the study was based on people situation as of 2012, at that time there was not so much pressure (exterior and self) to stop driving moreover for people in range so than between 65 and 77. At that time there was not so much pressure (still discussing stage) and it was more toward people aged 75 or more. So has pointed by other : for what reason did they stop driving.

So quite possibly the people which stopped driving thought they were better off not driving for whatever reason which should be taken in consideration. So a higher incidence of trouble than for people which could have assessed themselves as safe driver. While for non driver, they could be more 50/50.

For me it is more like they try to push old people driving down other people throat including elderly.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27532637/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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