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60,000 Elderly Japanese Drivers Showed Dementia Signs

Nearly 60,000 drivers aged 75 and over showed signs of dementia during the process of renewing their license, the National Police Agency said on Thursday.

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.

The revised road traffic law, which requires elderly drivers to see a doctor if dementia is suspected during a preliminary screening, took effect on March 12 last year. Fatal crashes involving senior citizens have become a major issue due to the rapid aging of the population.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The latest police tally showed 13,063 drivers were allowed to continue driving after seeing doctors, but 9,563 of them were required to submit another medical exam report in six months as their cognitive functions were diagnosed as deteriorating.

>Juthy Saha

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