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11.13.2006

The Mean (And Cranky) Streets Of Tokyo

Japan’s is the developed world’s fastest-ageing population, which has such unpleasant consequences as a shrinking workforce and an overburdened pension system. Another side-effect can be seen on the streets, where some elderly drivers wreak havoc by swerving randomly and shifting into reverse unintentionally. The Tokyo-based National Police Agency (NPA), using data gathered from regional police departments, calculated that accident rates among Japan’s silver-haired motorists now run at nearly twice the national average. There are 1.4 fatal accidents per 10,000 drivers aged over 70, compared with a national rate of just 0.8. The NPA now wants to introduce senility tests for drivers of that age, to be included in a wider revision of the Road Traffic Law next year.

Officials estimate there are some 300,000 senile drivers already, and that the number could soar by as much as 50% over the next five years. Wealthy Japanese who retired after the 1980s bubble are now hitting their mid-70s—5.4m of them are licensed drivers and, in most cases, own cars. That figure will rise to 6.8m by the end of the decade.

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