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Japan: NPA to Discuss Tighter Rules for Issuing Driver's Licenses to Epileptics
Source: japantoday.com
Source Date: Friday, June 01, 2012
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government
Country: Japan
Created: Jun 05, 2012

National Public Safety Commission Chairman Jin Matsubara said Thursday that the National Police Agency will convene a meeting next Tuesday to discuss tightening the rules for issuing driver’s licenses to people suffering from epilepsy.

The panel will include medical professionals, police officials, epileptic sufferers and members of a group representing relatives of those killed in traffic accidents.

The meeting comes after an accident in April in which a minivan ran through a crowded intersection and struck pedestrians in Kyoto, killing seven of them and injuring at least eight others, some critically. The 30-year-old driver, who suffered bouts of epilepsy, also died.

The deceased driver’s sister said that he had suffered from epilepsy and sometimes blacked out in the past or suffered convulsions, usually at night. She said that the family had asked him not to drive, and that they feel responsible for not having helped him.

Investigators also learned that the man’s doctors at the hospital where he was being treated for epilepsy had repeatedly urged him to stop driving.

People with epilepsy are often discriminated against in Japan and they often hide the problem, even when they get a driver’s license. Japan bans them from driving unless medical authorities confirm they have not had attacks in the past two years.

Japan has had a series of deadly crashes in recent months in which the drivers had epilepsy.

Last December, a crane driver, who suffered from epilepsy, was sentenced to seven years in prison for causing the deaths of six children in an accident in Tochigi Prefecture in April 2011. In that case, the man had hid his epilepsy to get his mobile crane driving license.

Matsubara said that the panel will discuss whether to make it a criminal offense for drivers to conceal or fail to declare that they have epilepsy when they apply for a license, TV Asahi reported.

However, Matsubara rejected calls for epileptics to be banned from driving altogether, saying that would make them feel ostracized from society.
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