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Japan unveils moves to prevent car crashes caused by elderly

Tokyo

JAPAN announced a series of measures on Tuesday to prevent car accidents caused by elderly drivers, including emergency brakes and vehicle-free zones around schools, following a string of crashes involving children.

One in four people aged 80 or over drives a car every day, the government said in a survey published on Tuesday, one of many challenges faced by rapidly ageing Japan.

Japan has been rocked by several tragic incidents involving elderly drivers ploughing into schoolchildren, with suspicions that the ageing motorists had inadvertently pressed the accelerator instead of the brake.

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In May, a car smashed into a group of kindergarten children in western Japan, killing two toddlers and injuring others. The previous month, a car driven by an 87-year-old man killed a mother and her three-year-old daughter.

"We should not waste any time in ensuring that children's journeys to school are safe," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told cabinet ministers after the plans were approved.

Tokyo will carry out an "emergency safety inspection" of school commuting routes by the end of September and promote the use of cars with emergency stopping devices to counteract accidental stamping on the accelerator.

The National Policy Agency will also consider introducing a new category of driving licence for elderly people, allowing them to operate only cars equipped with emergency stopping devices, a cabinet secretariat official said. AFP