Forget your grandparents getting $1 off meals at Denny’s. In Japan, elderly drivers pose such a threat to public safety that cities are offering a slew of discounts to stop them from driving. Although cheaper meals are one of the perks, the strangest benefit is discounted funerals.
According to a national study in Japan, traffic accidents have declined significantly since 2005. However, that same study found accidents involving senior citizens increased. Tragically, these accidents frequently end in fatalities. For instance, an 83-year-old woman drove onto a sidewalk and killed two teenagers. A more humorous but still significant situation occurred at a Tokyo FamilyMart. A man in his 80s injured two people after driving through the store’s front window. Despite the damage he caused, the driver still asked the cashier to buy cigarettes.
With a rapidly aging population, Japan already has multiple checks in place to screen elderly drivers for dementia. Nevertheless, it is a large population and the screenings don’t identify people whose mental health deteriorates quickly. Experts believe this is why so many accidents involve elderly patients confusing the brake and accelerator pedals.
While the government continues to refine its screening policies, cities hope their new incentive programs will convince elderly drivers to turn in their licenses voluntarily. In November, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police introduced the “Driving Graduation Certificate.” When an elderly driver turns in their license, they receive a certificate, which looks like a real driver’s license. The document thanks them for all their years of driving. The certificate also provides 50% discounts on all buses and monorails. Additionally, it earns the recipient 10% off all taxi rides and meals at certain restaurants.
Tokyo’s success with the program led other regions to offer similar incentives. For instance, in the cities located through Aichi Prefecture, all drivers over the age of 75 must take a driver’s test to renew their license. If they don’t think they’ll pass, or whenever they want to, they can turn in their license. In addition to a certificate, they also receive 15% off all meals at Sugakiya, a popular restaurant chain that specializes in ramen. A public bath facility also offers discounts to certificate holders.
Now, a funeral service company in Aichi is offering its own discounts. Any elderly person who voluntarily gives up their license receives at least 15% off their own funeral. On average, this is a savings of 56,000 yen, or $700. Additionally, the discount applies to all immediate family members of the elderly retired driver. While some supporters praise this new incentive, critics find it tasteless in light of the number of people killed in the country by elderly drivers.