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Old and deadly: Japan's drive to beat elderly road menace

40 Comments
By Natsuko Fukue

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On my drive to work this AM and within the space of about 10 minutes and MAYBE 200 meters I saw two separate accidents, both involving elderly drivers.

I was waiting at a red light and across the Hwy I saw the first one, a taxi driver, driven by some (should be) retired guy, cut off a scooter, being driven by another older gentleman. The scooter driver got hit in the back tire and he went sliding across the pavement. There were quite a few folks around, and by chance a cop driving by at the same time, and folks stopped to assist, the old guy looked "ok" but shaken up pretty bad.

The second, I stopped at a Family Mart for my AM coffee, went outside to smoke one, drink my coffee, and this taxi, with a customer, driven by some guy that looked like he had one foot in the grave, backs his taxi into a 250CC motorcycle/scooter, knocking it, and the guy getting on the bike over. The area was well lit, the bike was parked in the open, with open spots on either side, and the taxi still managed to hit it, square in the tail.

Yeah...get these old senile folks off the road! Quick too please!

1 ( +10 / -9 )

There are far worse dangers on Japanese roads besides elderly drivers. Elderly drivers accounted for a quarter of the road deaths last year, which is slightly higher by demographic breakdown. I also agree there should be greater cognitive testing of elderly drivers. However, if they are serious about getting them off the roads thy have to offer viable alternatives. Cheaper ramen and funerals are hardly any kind of incentive. Cheap bus fares are not incentive either because many of these elderly driver live in the countryside or outskirts of cities where buses are few and far between. This also applies to taxis. Even if they made taxis free there are still many areas where taxis are very few.

On the other hand, I'm more concerned about the other 75% of road deaths caused by reckless drivers. Instead of picking on the elderly they should be focussing on speeding drivers, those running red lights and stop signs, using phones and other distractions, unrestrained kids jumping around in cars and general arrogant driving manners.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

"The advantage (of driving your own car) is that you can go wherever and whenever you want. I hope I can continue driving until I die," he said.

Hate to say this, but if you keep on driving, and if the statistics bear out, you ARE going to drive to your grave!

Just do everyone else a favor and not take someone with you!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Driving is a privilege, not a right. If one is unable to competently operate a vehicle due to age, infirmity, or failure to respect the law, they should not be driving. It is unfortunate and can be a great inconvenience, but there it is.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If we are going to analyse traffic accidents in age groups, why just pick up one group?

How many drivers in the 18 to 25 group have accidents?  Ban them.

How many in the 35 to 40 group? Ban them

Not just age. Geographical location is also a factor.

How many accidents within 10 kilometers of the home?   Ban that.

How many accidents on the expressway? Oh that's really dangerous. Ban that.

PS. I lived in Singapore for 3 years.

Gary

1 ( +6 / -5 )

PS. I lived in Singapore for 3 years.

Which means what?

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Ridiculous I have seen so far is a group of young girls driving a yellow plate vehicle and I think they were recording themselves singing, the front passenger is holding the camera and the driver is swaying her hands not a care in the world!

Another one, have you seen those women wearing over size hats and sunglasses driving their cars? As if they are going to explode when sunlight hits their face...well this lady almost hit a boy on a pedestrian good thing the mom was able to grab his shirt and pulled him.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

They should offer affordable housing developments/Apartment complexes (available to only those over 55 and no kids permitted to live there.) with daily shuttle bus services to shopping centers. Works great in the states.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

How about granting senior drivers a significant discount when purchasing cars, new or old, equipped with assisted or self-driving systems when that technology becomes more mainstream?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Yeah...get these old senile folks off the road! Quick too please!

I must say; the frequent lack of respect towards older people here is something I was completely unprepared for.

"The advantage (of driving your own car) is that you can go wherever and whenever you want. I hope I can continue driving until I die," he said.

And good on him; if he's fit to do so.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Here's an idea, and call me crazy for this one, but, how about cutting the driving age limit off at 65 and on their id cards a stamp which gives people 65 and older like 40% off a taxi fare. for those who MUST drive (farmers, fishermen and so on) would have a driving test every 3 months. 2 strikes and you're out. That's my 2 cents.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

This problem has already been solved. Why it's not even being considered in Japan is beyond me. Self-driving cars.

Self-driving trucks are already being posed to take over the EU and US highways. Self-driving pizza delivery cars are already on the US roads. Not a peep about self-driving in Japan. No legislation on the table and no testing being done. Yet all this talk about how do we solve this problem of dangerous elderly drivers.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I guess a slight bonus is, I don't ever see seniors using smart phones and driving.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Beat me to it Robbie! Bring on the autodrive, the sooner the better for aging Japan. Buses and public transport is free in Australia for pensioners. My old man, although he loves his jag, seems quite happy jumping on a bus these days as he recognizes that his driving skills are diminishing. Only drives very locally now.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I guess a slight bonus is, I don't ever see seniors using smart phones and driving.

Your are correct.... they slam on the brakes and swerve off to the side while fishing for the ringing phone. Then they carry on with the conversation with the rear of the car sticking out in traffic or if the road is narrow, completely blocking the lane.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Another factor in accidents is overconfidence from drivers who have often been behind the wheel for decades, said Masabumi Tokoro, a professor at Rissho University who has been studying elderly drivers. According to a survey Tokoro conducted, 10 percent of drivers in their 30s thought they were capable of avoiding accidents, while the figure stood at 53 percent for those aged 75 and older. "They think they can avoid accidents with their driving skills," he said.

Staggering stat. Sheer recklessness, overconfidence & delusion, they're in dire need of a reality check. Not disputing speed, drink/driving, perhaps seatbelts etc are less of an issue with elderly drivers but 'driving skills' and especially the ability to avoid accidents are certainly not their forte.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Buses and public transport is free in Australia for pensioners.

Not completely free, they get concessions, like anywhere else really.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In Kansai, 80 year old taxi drivers that are forced by poverty and work the 10pm to 6 am shift are the most scarciest, but the 80 year old daytime taxi drivers who can't understand what a red light is, or a pedestrian crossing is...

they should get a decent pension and stay at home. All I talk to have been salarymen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

100% can't agree with self driving cars. Either drive safely or use public transport or a bicycle.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Self-driving cars is the solution, and not only for the elderly drivers, there are many young drivers with really poor skills on the road.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Yubaru.

I think Gary is trying to say drivers in Singapore are just as rubbish as those in Japan.

My guess is that demographically the proportion of drivers in the over 65 group roughly equates to about a quarter.   I see people of all ages doing dumb things on the roads here all the time.  And bicycles too.

And smokers are doubly reckless......

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The issue is meaningful testing on an increasingly regular basis. At least Japan has decent public transportation. It's worse in most other countries.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One solution might be to offer public transport. Outside of the major cities most public transport has been terminated over the last 20 years or so. When we go to the local supermarket (20km from our house) we sometimes get waylaid by old women begging for a lift back to their homes.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@hellookitty.

thank you for helping. i have to walk 14km total to go shopping. if somebody gives me a lift, i feel like i won the lotto.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Yes, there are some elderly that no longer have the reflexes or cognizance that they once had when younger and shouldn't drive. I had a neighbor in his 80s who recognized his limitations, decided not to drive anymore. So he adjust his lifestyle, does more walking and relies on buses, taxis and sometimes friends when he had to go somewhere. Turns out he has more fun as a passenger which enables him to "slow down and observe the flora and fauna", so to speak.

My guess is that demographically the proportion of drivers in the over 65 group roughly equates to about a quarter.  I see people of all ages doing dumb things on the roads here all the time. And bicycles too.

And I see just about every driver in their teens and 20s, preoccupied with texting on their smartphones or glued to their ears as equally dangerous. They just HAVE to check their phones every couple minutes or so or twiddle their thumbs. One time I was driving during rush hour traffic and noticed the car behind me was checking his phone or texting every couple of minutes. Almost rear ended me when I had to slow down at one point. So I got out of his lane. Sure enough, the car in front of him had to brake suddenly and he rear ended the car.

And I see many young people on bicycles holding their smartphones, and going through red lights and stop signs without a care in the world.

But then I don't see many elderly drivers viewing their smartphones and driving at the same time.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

According to a survey Tokoro conducted, 10 percent of drivers in their 30s thought they were capable of avoiding accidents, while the figure stood at 53 percent for those aged 75 and older.

Call this the Trump effect, those who claim to be the most competent are in fact not. Old people in Japan do have a serious case of entitlement about many things. In some cases deserved but not behind the wheel where they run over kids regularly.

Agree 65 and out. But that will not happen as old people vote. Buy a bigger car is my advice to survive the carnage on the roads caused by the elderly.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Wait. I'm somewhat confused here. People over 65 cause 25% of the accidents. Check. People over 65 here ARE 25% of the population (an age range of 20 years as the average life expectancy is 85) Check. People between ages 0-18 don't drive. Check. So 75% of accidents are caused by those between 18-65. An age range of 47 years. The oldies are doing quite ok here no? Of course not to ridicule the efforts out in by the authorities. I just thought they were much worse.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Agree 65 and out. But that will not happen as old people vote.

Simples. Take away their voting rights as well. Seeing as they're too far gone to know what's good for them.

Ach, why stop there? Carrousel at age 30 and anyone who opts out will face a jury of Sandmen.

You know it makes sense.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

From what i can gather,

1 : Is there any sort of eye test at all ages for Japanese drivers?

2: In one of the above pictures it show a man shouting with a load hailer at some old folk, why? is it that they are all deaf? is this really necessary? is this a military boot camp?

3: if you going to give instruction to some one why can't they have the instructor sit beside them and analyse how mr or mrs xxx is driving and help them through the mistakes, not to bellow instruction at them, this will properly undermine there possible low a-steam further,

4:These include deals for cheaper funerals and discounts on ramen noodles, along with more conventional methods such as cheap or free taxis and buses. now this is rubbing salt in the wounds! cheaper funerals, this is like saying hurry up and die, cheaper taxis and bus fairs now thats encouraging!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When my old man hit seventy-five, he was feeling a bit slow behind the wheel, so he took a course of lessons and passed an advanced driving test. Not sure age has much to do with any problems, more a question of attitude....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"One solution might be to offer public transport."

Many of you are living in the Kansai and Kanto mind set. 50% of Japan lives outside of any major metropolitan area where public transportation is very limited. Out in Fukui we have and handful of very sparse local train lines. A few terrible busses and a tram system that only runs about 1/10th the length of the city. Then consider the countless rural cities that have MAYBE a couple buses a day that only run from the city center to the next major city. If you are an elderly person that just wants to go to the store, there simply isn't an option for public transportation. As it is, I know that one major line in Fukui runs at a deficit, but they keep the line open anyway because it's simply the only way for some people to get to and from places like Katsuyama to Fukui city. Have any of you even ridden a train in western Honshu? Or eastern places like eastern Hokkaido. The trains and stations are 50+ years old in dire need of renovation. There simply isn't a large number of passengers, and subsequently the revenue for large swaths of JR to reach the modern levels we know in central Japan. Bolstering public transportation just isn't a realistic option in the vast majority of Japan.

I am really confused why every comment here that mentions self-driving cars is being downvoted. It offers freedom for the people who want it. No one is saying EVERYONE must use self driving cars. I for one love the freedom of being able to drive when and where I want. But we are here debating how to offer freedom for elderly citizens yet grant safety to everyone else on the road. It seems like a no brainer... and its not like its a controversial idea. It is literally being adopted all over the world at record speed, yet isn't allowed in Japan at all due to the complete absence of any legislation or discussion of the topic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Free Funerals for giving up your Car ... that won't work, 'cos they'd walk more, be more healthy as a result, live longer, and as such cost the Tax Payer more in the long run.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I just wish the old farts would speed up a little and do the speed limit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I just wish the old farts would speed up a little

I just wish that some posters would stop demonising older people.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Labeling the 25% elderly as geriatric is degrading with insulting humiliation. The writer of this article should apologize. How does one label the young drivers that drive at a dangerous high rate of speed, running red lights, zig sagging in and out of traffic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Simples. Take away their voting rights as well. Seeing as they're too far gone to know what's good for them.

Problem here is that since old people are the only ones that vote they would have to vote to take their

vote away. Not likely. Frankly just because they cannot drive a car does not mean they cannot think about the above proposition and reject it. Voting keeps mhm out of their cars for a while as well and not running over kids.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here is an example of what some companies are working on:

Health monitoring watch band to use also as vehicle interface

Future autonomous vehicles could - will be delivered with one or several watch bands (WB) and no key’s.

The device will use the latest optical - chemical sensors combined with a state-of-the-art patented software for biometrics interpretation. Constantly monitored are: alcohol, physical stress, sleep time - quality, fatigue levels, activity type, heart rate, blood pressure, calories and body temperature when driving a vehicle.

By using artificial intelligence, the device connects to the onboard information technology of vehicles and checking the physical - mental state of the driver as well as passengers wearing the same technology.

Improve travelling experience – security: drive autonomously when the driver is not able.

It also is helping people who have chronic diseases, consume, or treated with legal or illegal drugs and elderly people.

PS: It's a Swiss company and they would love to find a Japanese partner or investor!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

 just wish that some posters would stop demonising older people.

"Demonizing" is kind of harsh don't you think?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I saw an elderly man on TV once, who put color coded tape on his steering wheel to indicate where his wheels are pointed, which is ridiculous because in most cars, the steering wheel rotates more than 3 times from lock to lock.

I also saw a elderly man driving a car while wearing an oxygen mask, which begged the question, what happens if the oxygen stops?!?!

I am sure there are a lot of competent senior drivers out there, but THESE ( ↑ ) people don't belong on the road.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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