Japan's working on a new driver's licensing system to help protect elderly drivers

The number of fatal crashes caused by elderly drivers in Japan is on the rise and the government is looking for a way to stop that.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
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Cityscape at Ueno Business District at dawn

Japan has seen a 6.1 percent increase in fatal car crashes involving elderly drivers over the last 10 years, and the government is planning on doing something about it.

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Everyone has heard dozens of jokes about old people being terrible drivers, but the fact is that as you get older, your ability to take in, process and react to external stimuli slows down and that can be dangerous when operating a vehicle.

Japan has been experiencing a steep rise in fatal automotive crashes involving elderly drivers in recent years, and rather than simply banning older people from driving, according to a report Wednesday by the Japan Times, it's come up with a new driver's license system. This system could help ensure that only those people who are physically capable of driving safely remain on the road.

Japan's solution would involve a mandate that drivers 75 and older take a cognitive assessment test when they attempt to renew their driver's license. It would also encourage elderly drivers only to use vehicles equipped with certain modern safety features to help pick up where their reflexes might have left off. These would include automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist.

Japan has a good reason to worry about the fitness of older motorists. There has been a 6.1% increase in the number of fatal collisions caused by elderly drivers over the last 10 years, with them now accounting for 14.8% of all fatal car crashes in Japan.

In a country with the second highest median population age of any country on Earth, this is a growing concern that deserves a real solution. Japanese officials estimate that one in four individuals over the age of 80 still drive there, and that number doesn't seem likely to decrease.

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