Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Driving with epilepsy

Today, I saw news of an arrest case who injured another person with maladaptive driving. The suspect was attacked by an epileptic seizure during driving a car, resulting in a traffic accident. Arrest case of car accident with epilepsy, for the first time of new regulation (in Japanese)

In Japan, a new regulation was established about driving of patients with some diseases recently. In current penal code, patients with epilepsy or some other mental disorders which is uncontrolled is punished more severely when he or she cause an accident due to the diseases.

This kind of legislation is also seen in other countries. In many countries patients with epilepsy are prohibited to drive a car unless their disease is well controlled for a certain term. Also in Japan, there was a standard for permission of driving for patients with epilepsy. However, not a few patients were suspected to violate the law. In 2012, there occurred a tragic case in which a man lost his consciousness during driving minivan killing 8 people. As a result, the Japanese government decided to tighten the regulation. This included not only a strict duty to report about the patients, but also severe penalties for the patient.

Wikipedia: Epilepsy and driving

Indeed, it is dangerous for patients with uncontrolled epilepsy to drive a car. However, I do not believe that strengthening penalties will reduce the rate of such accidents. Most of the patients could not avoid from driving a car, either for daily life or earning money. Some of them are even struggling to make money to consult a doctor. They do not want really to drive a car. Severe punishment never solves this problem.

In addition, there is inequality between the patients. There are numerous factors which raise the risk of accidents: diabetes, hypertension, dementia, or simply elderly. However, epilepsy and some mental disorders are specifically included as the conditions to serve heavier punishment. I think that it is a form of discrimination.

To reduce such accidents, offering patients a right to free ride on a taxi may be effective. Actually, there is no sufficient budget in Japan. We should face to the concept of this matter.

By the way, the suspect in this case I mentioned above seems not to possess a driving license. It is another point of view. This is the first case in Japan adapting new legislation to drivers with epilepsy. I think that the police were considerably deliberative.


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