【Aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan】No.59: Traffic Fatality Accident and Dementia

In this column series, Yukihiro Matsuyama, Research Director at CIGS introduces the latest information about aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan with data of international comparison.

In February 2018, the National Police Agency published the analysis result for traffic accident deaths in 2017. The peak of traffic war in Japan was in 1970, when the number of traffic accident deaths was 16,765. It decreased to 3,694 in 2017. However, a new problem of traffic accidents involving elderly people with dementia is emerging.

Therefore, the government revised the law in 2015 to mandate cognitive function inspection for drivers who are over 75 years old at the time of license renewal. Based on the result, the applicants for license renewal are categorized into three levels, which are: 1) first, (may be suffering from dementia), 2) second (cognitive function may be declining), and 3) third (cognitive function is fine). Those who are classified into the first and second categories are obliged to get themselves diagnosed by a doctor and must return their licenses when diagnosed with dementia. However, those who are not diagnosed with dementia can renew their licenses.

There were 418 elderly people aged over 75 who caused a fatal accident in 2017. Among them, 385 had undergone a cognitive function test at the time of license renewal at the age of 75 and 33 had not taken the test because their license had been valid at the age of 75. The cognitive function reports of the 385 who were examined were as follows: 28 (7%) in the first category, 161 (42%) in the second category, and 196 (51%) in the third category.

As shown in Figure 1, the number of license holders over the age of 75 is 5.4 million as of 2017, of whom 2.21 million are over 80 years old. The older a driver, the higher the probability of a fatal accident (Figure 2).

Figure 1 Number of elderly people with driver's license


(Source)National Police Agency

Figure 2 Number of fatal accidents per 100 thousand people with driver's license


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