After a recent series of deadly driving accidents in Japan, authorities and private companies are working to urge senior citizens to give up their licenses—and Heiankaku Co., a funeral home chain, is providing a unique incentive.
With 89 funeral homes in Aichi Prefecture, Heiankaku will offer a15 percent discount on funeral services to anyone who brings proof from police that they returned their licenses to authorities, whether they live inside or outside the prefecture. Family and close relatives can also bring proof for their loved ones.
The company is teaming up with a local police station to tackle what is one of the lowest license return rates in the country, sitting at 2.15 percent in 2015. Improving the number is important to both seniors and bystanders, as Aichi has seen the percentage of fatal traffic accidents caused by elderly drivers almost double since 2007, from 7.7 percent to 13.2 percent in 2016.
Discount programs for the newly unlicensed elderly aren’t new to Aichi, or to Japan.
The Sugakiya restaurant chain began giving 15 percent discounts on ramen, rice and salad at its 176 Aichi locations in 2016, and other companies offer savings on taxis and other services.
Osaka Prefecture began providing similar discounts a few years ago for people aged 65 and older who gave up their driver license, including various percentages off barber shops, restaurants, and services with the presentation of a certificate received from the local police station. As a result, the prefecture had the highest license return rate in 2015, at 5.41 percent.
Last year the Japan Times reported that the number of drivers 75 and older had doubled in the past 11 years, growing from 2.36 million in 2005 to 4.77 million in 2016. With the growth in elderly drivers also came a growth in fatalities, increasing from 7.4 percent to 12.8 percent in Japan as a whole. Common accidents among elderly drivers included wrong-way driving and confusing the brake and gas pedals.
Licensing authorities have increased renewal requirements for elderly drivers in recent years by mandating cognitive and memory tests, and the penalties for negligent driving can be assessed on not only elderly citizens but also their families or appointed guardians if they are senile. They also developed a nondriver ID for photo identification, which can also be used for discounts instead of carrying a certificate of license return.
The Japanese government is also eyeballing the use of automotive technology to reduce accidents by the elderly, urging small car makers to develop automatic safety measures such as automatic braking that can be installed on older model vehicles popular with senior citizens.