SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Korea Bizwire) – A fatal traffic accident in Seoul caused by a driver in his 90s has rekindled a heated debate about drivers of advanced age getting behind the wheel.
On Tuesday evening, a sport utility vehicle driven by a 96-year-old man, identified only by the surname Yoo, ran over and killed a 30-year-old pedestrian in front of a hotel in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, police said Wednesday.
The SUV collided with a passenger sedan while backing out of the hotel’s underground parking lot before hitting the pedestrian at around 6:20 p.m., police said.
The pedestrian, identified only by the surname Lee, was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead immediately, they added.
Last December, a driver in his 70s mistook the accelerator pedal for the brake and drove his car into a hamburger shop in Busan.
On Nov. 3 last year, a car driven by a man in his 70s smashed into a hospital in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, after the driver stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake while in the hospital’s parking lot.
Many traffic experts say that older people have higher chances of causing traffic accidents due to their weaker cognitive abilities and slower body responsiveness.
The trend has been verified in traffic accident data, as the number of elderly drivers has grown in accordance with population aging.
According to data released by the Road Traffic Authority, the number of traffic accidents caused by drivers older than 65 has been on the rise in recent years, increasing from 17,590 cases in 2013 to 20,275 in 2014, 23,063 in 2015, 24,429 in 2016 and 26,713 in 2017.
The portion of traffic accidents caused by elderly drivers out of the nation’s total has also risen from 9 percent in 2014 to 11 percent in 2016 and 12.3 percent in 2017.
The number of traffic deaths caused by elderly drivers jumped from 737 in 2013 to 848 in 2017.
In particular, the number of traffic accidents caused by people between the ages of 75 and 79 increased 14.3 percent in the 2013-2017 period, while the corresponding figure for drivers older than 80 rose 18.5 percent.
The government has recently introduced several policy measures to encourage elderly people to stop driving.
Starting this year, drivers older than 75 are obliged to renew driver’s license and take an aptitude test every three years, instead of every five years. They are also required to complete two hours of training on traffic safety when renewing their driver’s license.
In addition, many provincial governments are offering cash and other incentives for elderly drivers who voluntarily give up their licenses. Police data showed a total of 15,528 people, mostly senior citizens, gave up their licenses in the one year leading up to last month.