Over the last few months, there has been a rash of age-related car accidents in Japan. Just yesterday, a 9 year old girl was killed and four other children injured when 70 year old driver rear ended another car and sent it spinning into a group of students walking home from school. Last week, an 85 year old driver who had been warned by his family not to get behind the wheel, veered onto a sidewalk after striking another car and ran down two high school girls on bicycles before flipping his car onto its side. In November, an elderly woman suddenly accelerated through a lowered parking lot gate and shot across the street where she killed two pedestrians. A month before that, seven people, including a two year old boy, were injured when an elderly driver hit the wrong pedal while exiting a parking lot and barreled across crowded sidewalk near a major department store and, earlier in the year, a 76 year old killed one person and injured five more when she lost control of her car in a parking lot.
According to the Japanese police, drivers 65 and older were responsible for 965 fatal accidents in 2016. That’s more than 25% of fatal car accidents nationwide and, because Japan is an aging society, there is a great deal of fear that the number will to grow in the coming years. To help mitigate that growth, in early 2017 a cognitive assessment was added to the existing mandate that all drivers be retested at 70 years of age and, rather than face the possibility of being found unworthy, more than 106,000 people voluntarily surrendered their licenses in the months prior to the new rules going live. While it’s certain that many older people were opposed to the new rules, there was little public outcry.
Of course, it will take time for the rules to take effect. An entire generation of drivers were retested at 70 before the cognitive assessment was added to the regime and they continue to be out on the road. But overall, the new rules are a genteel solution to a serious problem from a civilized society and it says a lot about the Japanese. Of course, I do not believe for on minute that we could do anything like it in the United States without a good old knock-down drag-out fight. We’re just not wired the same way. Continue Reading →