In recent years, the number of car accidents caused by the elderly has been unending. Many of these accidents involve those aged 65 and above and have caused several lives.
The government has offered incentives for the elderly to return their driver’s licences voluntarily by giving them a card that gets them discounts to several outlets and eateries. Still, the take-up rate is relatively low and accidents are rising. Often, the accidents are a result of mis-stepping the acceleration pedal instead of the break, and sometimes just purely misjudgment on the part of the driver.
A couple of weeks ago, while I was out for lunch with colleague M, he randomly asked me what I thought of the situation. The first thing that came to mind was Singapore’s weekend car system. I shared that with him and said I feel that the government could do something similar by only allowing the elderly to drive during certain hours. He nodded and agreed. However, we differed on our points of view as to the timing. While I felt that the elderly should only be allowed to drive at night when there are fewer people on the roads thus reducing the possibility of damages caused, he said that they should only be allowed to drive in the daytime when visibility is at its best. What he said makes sense to me, but of the many disastrous accidents reported in the news, many of which are a result of mis-stepping the accelerator, which has nothing to do with visibility. Thus, I feel that if the possibility of the same kind of accident occurring remains constant, we should focus on reducing the potential damages caused by limiting it to the time when the potential number of innocent people being dragged into the accidents are fewer. This suggestion is purely based on city dwellers as we both agree that those residing in the countryside need vehicles to get around, and besides, there aren’t many people on the streets in the countryside to begin with so the time limit doesn’t have to be imposed to the rural areas of Japan.
I discussed this is Dirty Shoes and she suggested they should limit the max speed of vehicles driven by the elderly. It reminded me of the 3-tonner in the army and I couldn’t agree more. She reasoned that some elderly people do need a vehicle to get around to get things done, i.e. to get groceries, to get to the hospital for checkups, etc., but since it is for their livelihood which is typically around the area they live in, there is no need for them to drive at high speeds. By limiting the speeds, the accidents caused can be less fatal.
Some few days later, I saw on TV about one mountainous area in Japan where the elderly people drive a one-seater whose max speed is only 60km/h. Because it is so inconvenient, the elderly say they need a vehicle to get around, and not only does the smaller vehicle make sense for them since the roads are never really long or straight enough for them to go beyond that speed, the smaller chassis also makes it easier for them to judge their vehicle’s distance against surrounding objects. This was exactly what Dirty Shoes suggested. Although I personally think 50km/h is ample since the max speed around most roads (excluding expressways) are between 40-60.
Recently, another program talked about limiting the time when the elderly could drive as well. I guess we can work in the traffic policy department lol.
Regardless, I certainly hope a policy to curb these can be erected quickly. Afterall, many of those unfortunately engulfed in such accidents and lost their lives were just walking along the pedestrain walkway or waiting by the traffic light, not disobeying traffic rules yet whose lives were taken away just like that. And as I was writing this, the news just reported another traffic death caused by a 70-year-old woman in Okayama prefecture =(