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Police agency set to approve former stroke patients driving again

The National Police Agency (NPA) has suggested allowing former cerebral stroke patients to resume driving, a move that will be hailed especially in local areas where cars are needed for everyday life, it has been learned.

    The NPA's driver's license division told the Mainichi Shimbun earlier this month that it will grant driver's licenses to former stroke patients who "have the ability to drive after evaluating their capabilities." To that end, the agency for the first time approved support activities by medical institutions and driving schools for former stroke patients to drive again.

    Japanese society has generally been negative toward allowing former stroke patients to drive again. There are roughly 1.2 million stroke patients across the country, with many in regional areas desiring to get back behind the wheel due to poor public transportation systems in such areas.

    Thanks to the NPA's green light, stroke survivors will now be allowed to: consult at prefectural governments' driving aptitude consultation desks; receive support from medical institutions and driving schools toward resuming to drive; and take driving aptitude tests at driver's license centers.

    The NPA has heretofore judged whether to grant driver's licenses to applicants based on whether they have difficulty driving and not on their health ailments, as part of efforts to promote social engagement by people with disabilities.

    People who developed a stroke in the past often become unable to drive again due to paralysis of the body and impaired attention. In Chiba, Mie and other prefectures, support programs for former stroke patients to return to driving are already in place -- in which medical institutions thoroughly check former patients and driving schools evaluate their driving ability with occupational therapists joining them in the car for tests. Meanwhile, Ibaraki and other prefectures do not approve such support programs. An NPA representative told the Mainichi, "We appreciate efforts to support former patients to start driving again."

    Yoshio Fujita, associate professor at Chiba Prefectural University of Health Sciences, said, "It has often been the case across the country that driving schools with influence from local police headquarters refuse to accept former stroke patients even if medical institutions are trying to support them in taking the wheel again. Now that the NPA has clarified its position, it has opened the way for behind-the-wheel driving ability evaluations of former patients."

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