Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

What to do about elderly drivers?

31 Comments

When a car driven by an 83-year-old woman struck and killed two people in a hospital parking lot in Tachikawa, Tokyo, on Nov 12, the inevitable reaction was, “Again?” Shukan Shincho (Nov 24) surveys the pertinent day-after headlines in six major newspapers. All contain the word “mata” (again).

The word has few synonyms. This is not ordinarily a problem but was – again – the very next day, Nov 13, when an out-of-control car driven by another motorist in his 80s caused another fatality, the victim a woman riding a bicycle in Koganei, Tokyo. Headline writers’ skills are being stretched to the limit.

It just keeps happening. The two episodes above are among six in the past month. On Oct 21, a 76-year-old man killed himself and two passengers of a truck he collided with while driving on the wrong side of an expressway in Akita Prefecture. The following week, an 87-year-old man drove his truck into a group of elementary school children, killing one and injuring six. Nov 10: one woman killed, two women injured by a car driven by an 84-year-old near a hospital in Tochigi Prefecture. Nov 11: two shoppers injured in Tokyo when an 84-year-old rammed his car into a convenience store.

In an aging society, drivers, too, are aging. There were 62 fatal traffic accidents involving drivers 80 or over in 1993, according to statistics quoted by Shukan Shincho. In 2014, there were 266 – two every three days, with no end in sight to the surge in the number of elderly drivers. As of the end of last year, 1.96 million people 80 or over were licensed drivers.

Maybe the most dangerous thing about them is that most of them think they’re okay. They may well not be, says Tokyo University medical school neuro-pathologist Takeshi Iwatsubo – even if they don’t have dementia. Reflexes slow and vision dims with age, he says. An aged driver is more likely than a younger one to panic at the unexpected – and hit the accelerator instead of the brake, for example, which is what seems to have happened in the Tachikawa accident.

Statistics bear that out. Drivers 80 and over are involved in 3.75 times more fatal accidents than drivers 64 or under.

Dementia is suspected as a factor in two of the six accidents recapped above. Legal measures in place to keep potentially dangerous elderly drivers off the roads seem ludicrously inadequate. Drivers 70 and over, when renewing their licenses, must sit through lectures and submit to vision tests. At 75 a mandatory test of cognitive functions kicks in. Results are arranged in three categories: (1) no problem; (2) some deterioration; (3) likely dementia. As of now, shockingly enough, drivers found to be in category 3 don’t have their licenses revoked; they are not even sent on for further medical testing – unless they are subsequently involved in an accident or violation. Next March an amendment to the Road Traffic Law will close that loophole. How many preventable accidents will occur between now and then?

And how effective will the new law be? Not very, Iwatsubo fears. Dementia, he tells Shukan Shincho, is expanding at the rate of roughly 50,000 patients a year. That’s an enormous potential caseload, he says, for the 2000-odd medical experts competent to deal with them.

© Japan Today

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
Login to comment

Most elderly people I know really do not want to drive, but have little or no options. Taxis are too expensive and both bus and taxi service may not be available or reliable where they live.

If they can be given better options than driving, most will take it.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Instead of continually dumping money down holes to nowhere funds should be given to local communities, particular one's off the beaten paths to improve transportation services for the elderly.

Local communities also should be getting involved with setting up programs that could connect neighbors with elderly living around them with younger drivers that would work together to assist the elderly with their transportation needs.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Drivers over 80 are less likely to be playing Pokemon Go, however, so the numbers may change in the future.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Take their keys away.

-6 ( +7 / -13 )

After a certain age, driving should be forbidden. Maybe 65 years old tops.

After that, give them vouchers to take taxi or bus as part of social services.

-13 ( +4 / -17 )

Headline writers’ skills are being stretched to the limit.

Same as most of the comments read here, same old repeats again & again looking to hang somebody out . Get your free click here.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

" Drivers 80 and over are involved in 3.75 times more fatal accidents than drivers 64 or under."

What a rediculously unbalanced statistic. A comparison against those in their twenties or thirties would give a better indication of the scale of the problem. The problem appears to be with enforcement of existing regulations. Of course a patient with dementia shouldn't be driving. There's a role for the patients doctor here, the license should be revoked at the point of diagnosis.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

What a rediculously unbalanced statistic.

Statistics posted here, and given out by the government should be taken with less than a grain of salt.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

As stated above, for many of the elderly, the only way out of their house is by car. It's not so bad for the city dwellers because they have access to public transport, but the rural oldies have it pretty tough. And, the irony is, most of the oldies live in rural areas with virtually no options. Sadly, the only way of avoiding the oldies driving and causing accidents is to ban them. This is a cruel fact because Japan, in all its personally renowned might, does bugger all for the older generation (one third of the population). Any assistance for the aged is left to local councils and, in rural areas, the councils do not have any money to provide care and transport for the geriatric generation. They do employ 'spotters' who visit the elderly monthly to make sure they are not dead, but that's about all they do. I know a large percentage of the aged are quite capable of looking after themselves and are still capable drivers, but there are also many who are not. This problem will only increase until the J-Gov stops spending billions overseas and uses the money to support their ageing population. There are quite a few private organisations caring for the elderly, but they are only doing it for the money and cashing in on geriatric bonanza. They charge a small fortune for any assistance. Most of the elderly are victims of the failed pension system and do not have any cash to use these parasite companies feeding off the incapacitated. Therefore, the only answer to this question is, good luck driving and keep an eye out for a senile oldie driving on the wrong side of the road.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The elderly are owed a due of respect.

That would include some measure of how often they should be tested.

At some point depending on the person this would be a monthly test.

Certainly first-word world governments have the ability to supply such a test, and upon failure to supply the elderly with free point-to-point transit.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Many people want to continue driving for as long as they can do so safely. But, for many people, a time will come when they must limit or unfortunately stop driving, either temporarily or permanently. In other words there are warning signs that indicate a person should begin to limit or stop driving. So you have to notice these cautionary signs in yourself. Some countries have a driver improvement program course that can be helpful. You can also talk you your doctor about concentration or memory problems, or other physical symptoms that can lessen driving ability. In the end you have to decide when time is up and make that final decision.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

More services need to be available to the elderly. We're seeing some, such as private companies providing shuttle buses to and from stations or homes to their supermarkets or what have you, but the government needs to do a LOT more itself. Of course, it whines about how it cannot because it has no money to spare unless taxes are raised, but there are easy ways they can save money through cutting spending, and put it towards these people: STOP all the BS white elephant projects to try and spur the economy! STOP giving all of our tax money away to other countries in the hopes to somehow, some day Japanese companies MIGHT get lucrative contracts down the road (especially when so many end up backing out)! STOP with ridiculous money wasters like the Olympics or similar events which only suck money down holes faster than a Hakata sink hole and will leave the nation in debt for ages.

But, none of that will happen. So, old people will continue to need or want to drive to places they can no longer get to easily on foot or by public transportation, and we will continue to see these accidents daily.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Roll on self-driving cars!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

the inevitable reaction was, “Again?” Shukan Shincho (Nov 24) surveys the pertinent day-after headlines in six major newspapers. All contain the word “mata” (again).

It is not like this is something new, this has always been happening but it is the latest trend Japan media decides to pick up on kind of like the bullying issue among other things.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Elderly must give up their driving licenses. This is not some social impairment, this is nature of biological life on this planet. They get older, slower, lose the sharpness of the mind. Car is not a privilege, it is a responsibility, and when you are unable to uphold your responsibility you give it up. Not because someone wants it, but because you have to. You might be driving just fine for five years then, maybe ten. But you are betting not only your own life, but someone's else on how fragile your body has become. Such gambling is unaccaptable. This is about humanity to give up this license, instead of bringing sorrow after something happens.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'll be 80 next April. After voluntarily making major lifestyle changes as I grew older, e.g., stopped drinking, stopped chasing fast women and stopped staying out all hours of the night (LOL), I think I'll know when it's time to give up my car keys. Also, I receive frequent mental and physical health checkups, so my doctors will be instrumental in determining when I should stop driving.

In defense of elderly driving in my area (San Antonio, Texas), most traffic accidents that occur here are youngsters speeding, driving while intoxicated, driving the wrong way on expressways, street racing, making improper turns, failing to yield, and distracted driving (talking on cell phones, texting, applying makeup, chasing Pokemon, etc.),

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Certainly first-word world governments have the ability to supply such a test, and upon failure to supply the elderly with free point-to-point transit.

Tell me, what "first world" country provides free transportation to the elderly?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Yubaru: Tell me, what "first world" country provides free transportation to the elderly?

Elderly people in my neighborhood in the USA use the 'Paratransit' system. A shuttle bus stops at their door and takes them to where they want to go, hospital visit, whatever.

Googled 'how is paratransit funded' and found on federal website:

https://www.transit.dot.gov/regulations-and-guidance/civil-rights-ada/paratransit-requirements-%C2%A75311-funded-fixed-route-service

Paratransit Requirements for §5311-Funded Fixed-Route Service Operated by Private Entities

Where a state provides Federal Transit Administration §5311 funds to a private entity to operate a fixed route service, ...

Can search google images for 'paratransit' to see the buses.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Can search google images for 'paratransit' to see the buses.

Japan has them, but they are not for elderly, they are for disabled and sick people and the demand already exceeds offer. Most of the problematic elderly drivers have good legs, they are not eligible for the service.

give them vouchers

Why should that be free ? OK for the needy ones. But we are talking of people that can afford cars, so they can pay for the taxi instead. Some can even hire drivers.

this has always been happening

Not at that scale. It's the first generation with nearly everybody getting a car and living in to their 80's.

forbidden. Maybe 65 years old tops.

You'd ban more than half of Japan's drivers...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They terminated our local bus service about 15 years ago. It is over 16 kilometers to the nearest shops so what are people supposed to do if they can't drive? (And don't say take a taxi because it is too expensive).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hellokitty123: They terminated our local bus service about 15 years ago. It is over 16 kilometers to the nearest shops so what are people supposed to do if they can't drive?

It was 15 years ago. I guess they're not walking that far, mostly. So what do the people there do?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

20-30 year olds are still the most dangerous drivers. Period.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You'd ban more than half of Japan's drivers...

Taxi companies down here would go out of business.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'll be 80 next April.

Do us all a favor and stop driving before you kill someone. I am sure every driver mentioned in the article felt they were still competent to drive past 80.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Do us all a favor and stop driving before you kill someone. I am sure every driver mentioned in the article felt they were still competent to drive past 80.

Old age brings an acute awareness of things you can and cannot do. Young people tend to think there isn't anything they can't do and may not accept mental or physical limitations to their driving abilities. I'd bet that for every incompetent elderly driver, there are probably two-three (or more) youngsters who are equally incompetent or worse drivers.

IMHO, younger drivers get something of a pass when they cause vehicle accidents. For example, the article today which reported a young driver hit three kids in a crosswalk. If that had been an elderly driver, the headline would have surely included the drivers age, and many folks commenting on the incident would have been screaming for the driver to lose his license, be retrained, etc. Even though the cause of the accident was inattentiveness andor speeding, not age related,

Please accept the fact that all elderly people aren't incompetent drivers and all non-elderly drivers aren't competent drivers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Some states (at least) have some limits built into the laws for youngsters. If they have a serious violation in the first year or so, they lose their license, IIRC.

Don't think any have the same for older drivers, AFAIK. Unless they fail a driving or vision test, it's up to relatives to hide the keys. And decline can be fairly rapid for some people, so that an annual test wouldn't catch it in time.

(IIRC, AFAIK, FWIW, haven't looked into it recently.)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some provision needs to be made for increasing the frequency of license renewals with age, and local police need to be vigilant about watching, enforcing laws and recpmmending suspending the licenses of elderly drivers who are clearly impaired.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

anotherexpat NOV. 28, 2016 - 03:14PM JST Some provision needs to be made for increasing the frequency of license renewals with age, and local police need to be vigilant about watching, enforcing laws and recpmmending suspending the licenses of elderly drivers who are clearly impaired.

You can say the same about young drivers. A least elderly don't have same frequency of DUI as young drivers.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Many states have government shuttle services for the elderly and disabled called the Handi-Van. They pick you up and drop you off at your house. $2 flat rate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Take their keys away.

If only it were that easy.

People keep saying that taxis are expensive, but the cost of a kei car is 105 man, insurance is a few man a year, 10 man annually for gas ( a tank every couple of weeks for a small car), shaken etc...take that full amount of money and I'm sure it would last a long time if used for a taxi once or twice a week. Friends could taxi pool to the shops and doctor's appointments.

Hellokitty123, your situation of no shops for 16km seems extreme...are there no home delivery options?

Some provision needs to be made for increasing the frequency of license renewals with age,

They are tested annually after the age of 75.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

People keep saying that taxis are expensive, but the cost of a kei car is 105 man, insurance is a few man a year, 10 man annually for gas ( a tank every couple of weeks for a small car), shaken etc.

I calculated it a couple of years ago, and it's cheaper for me to catch taxis than it is to own a car.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites