2 feared dead, 8 injured after elderly driver plows car into pedestrians in Tokyo

Police officers inspect the scene of a traffic accident in Tokyo, Japan, on April 19, 2019.
Police officers inspect the scene of a traffic accident in Tokyo, Japan, on April 19, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Police officers inspect a vehicle after it was wrecked during a traffic accident in Tokyo, Japan, on April 19, 2019.
Police officers inspect a vehicle after it was wrecked during a traffic accident in Tokyo, Japan, on April 19, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (XINHUA) - Two people are feared dead and eight others injured on Friday (April 19) after a car plowed into them at a busy intersection in Tokyo, police said.

The vehicle, driven by a man in his 80s, struck the pedestrians at a crosswalk and then hit a garbage truck in the busy Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, the Metropolitan Police Department said.

A woman in her 20s and a little girl around two years old believed to be her daughter, are feared to have died in the collision, local media reported, adding that they were both in a coma.

The collision occurred around 12.30pm local time (11.30pm  Singapore time) near the Higashi-Ikebukuro subway station, which serves the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line and carries about 43,000 passengers daily.

As well as a large post office, the area close to the site of the collision also includes the expansive Sunshine City complex, where the 240-metre-tall Sunshine 60 skyscraper - an attraction for shoppers, tourists and business people - is located.

Japan’s “silver tsunami” demographic crisis, which is set to worsen, has made the topic of elderly drivers a national talking point.

Drivers aged 75 or older, including those who had not taken a cognition test, caused 418 fatal accidents in 2017 alone, of which 41 per cent were vehicle collisions and 19 per cent involved collisions between vehicles and pedestrians.

According to data from Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA), 194 people died in accidents caused by drivers suspected of having dementia or impaired cognition. Cases where drivers mistook the accelerator for the brake pedal before causing a fatal accident were almost eight times higher among the elderly during the reporting period.

Under a revised traffic law that took effect in March 2017, drivers aged 75 or older are required to see a doctor in the preliminary part of the screening if they are suspected of having dementia. 

The NPA has reported that around 1,900 elderly drivers had their licences revoked or suspended after undergoing medical tests in the first year under the revised traffic law.