Tens of Thousands of Senior Drivers in Japan Show Signs of Dementia

30,170 Japanese drivers ages 75 years and older have shown signs of dementia. This is according to recent results of a cognitive test done under the revised Road Traffic Law. The figures were released last November 2 by the National Police Agency.


Photo credit to: https://www.japantimes.co.jp


About 1.12 million elderly drivers took the test since the law took effect last March 12. 674 of them were revoked of their licenses after doctors diagnosed them with full-on dementia.


Under the revised law, senior drivers ages 75 or older are required to take the cognitive test once they renew their licenses or have committed traffic violations. Those that show signs of dementia are obliged to consult a doctor. Once medically diagnosed, their licenses will be revoked or suspended.


About 2.7% of those who the test were at risk of having dementia. 7,673 were ordered to see a doctor by the end of September, another 674 had their licenses revoked, and 23 had them suspended.


4,326 elderly drivers were allowed to keep their licenses but are obliged to submit medical certificates after six months.


On the contrary, 6,391 senior drivers voluntarily turned in their licenses before the law took effect. Another 1,267 had them invalidated after not complying with seeing the doctors.


The NPA previously estimated that around 50,000 drivers per year will need to see doctors following the test with some 15,000 of them expected to face license revocation or suspension after being diagnosed with dementia. Retaking the test is possible depending on their health condition at the time of their first take. Nearly 4,000 improved when they retook the test.


Between January and September this year, there were 294 cases of fatal traffic accidents involving drivers of the said age group. It was a decrease from last year’s 328 figures but is still high compared to other age groups.


A fatal traffic accident last year October involved an 87-year- old man driving a truck in Yokohama near Tokyo. He ran into a group of school children killing one boy. Another involved an 83-year- old woman in Tokyo last year November who lost control of her car at a hospital causing two deaths.


An NPA panel convened last June to mitigate the risks associated with poor vision, deteriorating physical strength and dementia associated with seniors. They proposed new rules such as limiting elderly drivers to vehicles with advanced safety systems that can automatically brake or prevent unintended accelerations; or restricting seniors to drive at certain times of the day or in certain areas. They also recommend to continue the ongoing campaigns urging the seniors to voluntarily give up driving.


Similar practices are put in place in countries like the United States and Germany.


Reference: Some 30,000 elderly drivers in Japan show signs of dementia


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