One dead, three injured, after 90-year-old driver runs red light and mows down pedestrians near Tokyo

Driver Kumiko Saito has been arrested after the incident in Chigasaki city, which highlights the number of elderly drivers on Japan’s roads

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 8:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 8:47am

A 90-year-old driver is suspected of running a red light and hitting four pedestrians southwest of Tokyo on Monday, killing one of them, police said, in an incident that again highlights the problem of elderly drivers involved in fatal accidents.

The police arrested Kumiko Saito, who was driving the car in Chigasaki city in Kanagawa Prefecture on suspicion of negligence causing death and bodily injury. She passed a cognitive function test in December and renewed her driving licence in March.

According to the police, Saito’s vehicle left a car repair shop and went out on a road at around 10.55am. It slowed down in front of a crossing at an intersection before bumping into the people at the crossing and running on to the pavement.

The police quoted an eyewitness as saying the light for pedestrians was green at the time.

Saito allegedly told the police that she “knew it was a red light” at the intersection, but she “attempted to go through.”

The pedestrian who died is believed to be a 57-year-old woman. In addition to the four pedestrians, two people were taken to hospitals after witnessing the accident and feeling ill.

Given the nation’s rapidly ageing population, police introduced tougher screenings in March last year, requiring those who are 75 or older to take the cognitive test when they renew their license or when they are ticketed for certain traffic violations.

The license of drivers diagnosed with dementia is due to be suspended or taken away, while police have been urging elderly drivers to voluntarily give up their license.

Between March 2017 and the end of that year, some 1.72 million drivers aged 75 or older underwent the cognitive test across the nation. Of them, at least 46,000, or 2.6 per cent, were judged as possibly having dementia, the National Police Agency said.