Issues related to elderly drivers are becoming societal concerns in Japan. Although Tokyo offers excellent public transportation system, elderly drivers are still hesitating to give up their driver’s licenses. The following is a short news paper article about a new initiative started by local government to encourage elderly drivers to return their licenses.
Several recent fatal traffic accidents that made the news were caused by elderly drivers and there were about 7,000 accidents involving drivers over the age of 65 in 2007 (2.6 times greater than 10 years ago). Japanese authorities are concerned about ever-growing numbers of traffic accidents involving elderly drivers, which has led the Tokyo government to start a new campaign aimed at reducing the number of old people driving cars. The Tokyo government has enlisted the help of local businesses to provide discounts to elderly people who have turned in their driver’s licenses. Examples include free shipping of goods purchased at department stores, a 10% discount on Domino’s Pizza deliveries, and a 10% discount at expensive hotel restaurants. It is unclear how many of Tokyo’s 760,000 elderly drivers will accept the offer.
I also found a TV news interview of Tokyo’s oldest driver’s license holder, Seichi Koyama. The 102-year-old is confident of his driving ability. In his interview, he mentioned that “It’s a point of pride to be qualified to drive. I don’t have to drive but I still want to keep my driver’s license. It is very difficult to give up, but I will consider returning it for the next renewal.”
When I saw these two reports, I was puzzled by the approach Tokyo government was initiating. Is it really an appropriate and effective way to solve this societal challenge? Their approach of providing discounts for shopping goods and restaurant appeared to be out of touch with what elders really need, because receiving discounts will not replace the “lost sense of pride” by elders who are ought to give up on their driver’s license. I believe what we need to think about is “how can we ensure that elders maintain their sense of pride even as they loose their driver’s licenses?”