Japan’s Elderly Drivers: Fatal Traffic Accidents Down in First Half of 2019Society
Traffic Fatalities Declining
Attention in Japan has focused on elderly drivers following several deadly crashes that made national headlines. However, there are indications that safety is improving among senior motorists. According to the National Police Agency, drivers 75 and older accounted for 172 traffic fatalities in the first six months of 2019, of which motorists 80 and over were responsible for 98 fatalities. This is 50 and 27 fewer cases, respectively, compared with the same period in 2018.
Authorities point to increased media attention and greater social awareness of serious accidents caused by elderly drivers as attributing to the decrease. This may have led senior motorists to take greater precautions when behind the wheel and limit the amount they drive.
Looking at fatal accidents per 100,000 licensed drivers, motorists aged 75 and over accounted for 3.1 cases in the first six months compared to 4.1 cases during the same period in 2018. Although there were fewer cases, the ratio is more than twice the 1.4 cases among drivers younger than 75.
Confusing Brake with Accelerator
Out of all fatal accidents caused by elderly motorists, human error was cited in 149 cases. Driver error like steering and braking mistakes accounted for 50 incidents, representing 34% of the total. Other causes include 41 cases of distracted driving (27%), 22 cases of failing to observe proper safety like checking the rear view mirror (15%), and 10 cases of poor judgement (7%).
In cases of driver error, 23 incidents involved steering mistakes and 17 incidents were caused by drivers confusing the brake with the accelerator. Brake-accelerator cases accounted for 11% of total traffic fatalities attributed to drivers 75 and over compared to 0.7% for drivers under 75.
(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Police examine an accident site in Toshima, Tokyo, on April 19, 2019 where an elderly male driver lost control of his vehicle, striking pedestrians before colliding with a garbage truck. © Jiji.)