SEREMBAN: An elderly driver apparently stepped on the accelerator pedal by mistake and rammed his car into a restaurant in Seremban on Tuesday afternoon. No one was hurt in the incident.
The car smashed though tables and chairs and came to rest against a side wall at the back of the Sheng Seng Fatt restaurant, with its signal lights blinking.
The 82-year-old man sustained head injuries but was able to step out of the car. The unnamed man was taken to hospital for treatment.
Fortunately, the eatery was empty when the mishap took place as it was just opening up for business.
A video clip of the accident was made available by China Press.
Over the years, there have been numerous reports of accidents locally and abroad caused by elderly drivers who jump kerbs and crash into crowds, often with fatalities. As drivers age, they tend to suffer from slower reflexes and diminished alertness.
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The cause is almost always due to the elderly driver hitting the accelerator instead of the brake pedal. Or they might have wanted to reverse but had forgotten to shift the gear lever from "D" to "R", leading to unintended consequences.
In Malaysia, Perodua's top-specced Myvi and Aruz (and top-specced Toyota Rush, which the Aruz is based on) comes with a safety feature that addresses pedal missteps. Called Pedal Mis-operation Control, the technology suppresses engine output when the driver accidentally stomps on the accelerator pedal (such as during low-speed parking). This reduces damage from incidents where the driver has panicked.
While elderly drivers have the lowest crash rates of all age groups in Malaysia, it is not so in developed countries with a sizeable ageing population.
A 2011 Carnegie Mellon University study revealed that in America, the fatality rate for drivers over 85 is four times higher than for teenagers, usually believed to be the most reckless category of drivers.
In Japan, for example, more than a quarter of the total fatal accidents in 2016 were caused by drivers over 65, according to police records.
A funeral service company in central Japan had in 2017 gone to the extent of offering a 15% discount to elderly drivers who give up their driving licences.
In the larger context, Malaysia still has one of highest road traffic accident rates in the world. It has the third highest fatality rate in Asia and Asean, behind Thailand and Vietnam. These fatality rates are similar to that of some African countries.
By comparison, the fatality rates in developed countries are all in single digits.
Generally, over half of all road traffic deaths usually involve adults aged between 15 and 44 years, who are often the family breadwinners.