Nearly 60,000 Japanese drivers showed signs of dementia, report finds


Concern rising about a spike in serious accidents involving older drivers

Almost 60,000 older drivers in Japan showed signs of dementia, according to a new report, underlining the country’s struggle to address the rising number of people living with the condition.

About 57,000 drivers aged 75 and over displayed symptoms when they renewed their driving licences during the 12 months to the end of March, according to the national police agency.

Under a change to road safety laws introduced last year, drivers who showed symptoms of dementia were required to see a doctor as part of efforts to cut the number of accidents involving older motorists.

According to police, more than 2 million drivers underwent cognitive function tests during the year ending in March, and just over 57,000 were suspected of having some form of dementia.

The police agency said about 1,900 older drivers had their licences revoked or suspended, while another 16,000 voluntarily surrendered their licences.

While the overall number of road traffic deaths fell to a record low last year, police are increasingly concerned about the spike in serious accidents involving older drivers.

Many involve drivers mistaking the accelerator for the brake, and driving the wrong way along motorways after entering via interchanges and toll booths.

A 90-year-old woman was arrested in May after running a red light and killing a pedestrian near Tokyo. Three other people were injured. The same month, a woman in her 70s drove her car into a hospital waiting area in south-western Japan, injuring 13 people.

And in November last year, two people were killed when a car driven by an 83-year-old woman rammed into them at a hospital near Tokyo.

As a super-ageing society, Japan is at the forefront of a dementia crisis that experts warn will affect other countries with growing older populations in the decades to come.

According to the health ministry, 4.6 million people are living with some form of dementia, with the total expected to soar to about 7.3 million people – or one in five Japanese aged 65 or over – by 2025.

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