Mon, Oct 02, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Old n’ reckless

Wonky driving by Japan’s elderly is raising death tolls, but these experienced drivers aren’t giving up their licenses yet

By Natsuko Fukue  /  AFP, KANUMA, Japan

“They think they can avoid accidents with their driving skills,” he said.

Authorities have taken steps with legislation, introducing laws in March forcing drivers aged 75 or older to pass cognitive tests when renewing their licenses.

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And carmakers are trying to do their bit as well, installing features such as a system that stalls acceleration if the driver steps on the gas pedal instead of the brake.

But this is being rolled out only gradually and only for new models.

According to the transport ministry, the system to slow acceleration was installed in around one third of 4.4 million new passenger cars manufactured in 2015.

Tokoro believes the problem will not be solved with cognitive tests or bribing older drivers to return their licenses.

“It’s inconvenient in rural Japan and you cannot do anything without a car. That’s why (older drivers) won’t let go of their permits,” he explained. Tokoro said the government needed to foster an environment in which older people can lead a normal life even after handing in their license.

He cited as examples reasonably priced taxi-sharing services and a drive to encourage older residents to move to city centers from suburban areas. Japanese IT firm DeNA has been testing self-driving cars to provide a new means of transportation in ageing rural communities by 2020. Back at the track, Takahashi said she was hoping to continue driving until 85 years old. She added, “I think I can keep driving if I study and become confident. I’ll stop driving if I feel I have health problems.”

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