Ina City makes senior drivers an offer they can’t refuse.

Transportation is a necessity for everyone and while Japan’s public transportation is top-notch, there are still gaps that can only be filled by a car. For that reason, a growing problem involves people hanging on to their licenses into old age when they become no longer able to drive safely.

That’s why many cities have introduced driver graduation programs in which seniors can exchange their valid licenses for ceremonial ones. These graduation licenses can often be used to get discounts on public transportation or from businesses.

▼ A video showing the process of graduating from a driver’s license. Those who do it are given a card almost identical to a normal driver’s license.

For the most part, the benefits of a graduated license have been a little underwhelming, but Ina City in Nagano Prefecture came up with a very enticing deal. Since 2020, anyone who has surrendered their driver’s license can take a taxi anywhere in the city for a flat rate of 250 yen (US$1.85).

Those who register for the system receive a card which is scanned in the cab, and regardless of the destination, the passenger pays only 250 yen with the city covering the rest.

Although the program is aimed at seniors who give up their licenses, the benefits are extended to anyone over 75, those who give up their licenses at any age, and those living with disabilities. In addition, anyone over 65 can get a similar deal, with a 500-yen ($3.70) fare regardless of their license situation.

However, anyone who lives very close to train lines and bus routes in the city center are not eligible. This service is also only available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

Nevertheless, about 13 percent of eligible residents are already using the new system and the city expects usage this year to rise to 70 people a day. Local taxi companies are also thrilled by the initiative. Having been hit hard during the pandemic they are now reporting steady business thanks to the program. Local shops have also experienced upticks because of the increased mobility people are enjoying around Ina City.

▼ A promotional video showing a woman using the service to visit the city office and get her shopping and banking done. It also shows how you can get added savings by carpooling with friends.

Readers of the news around Japan were also in agreement that this was a good plan. Especially following several high-profile incidents where pedestrians with children were stuck and killed by senior drivers.

“And these benefits aren’t even taking into account the lives saved from taking hazardous drivers off the street.”
“This is a really good idea.”
“I’m sure it costs a lot of money, but the benefits are great.”
“If this spreads across the country I’m sure the number of heartbreaking accidents will decrease.”
“I’m going to get a license just so I can surrender it.”
“With gas prices now, that’s simply better than driving yourself.”

There’s even a possibility that the businesses which are benefiting from this can get involved and make the savings even sweeter for the residents of Ina. Convenience stores seem like especially promising backers since their storefronts are oddly frequent targets for car crashes.

Sources: Asahi Digital, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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