Noilly Prattle: Age Discrimination and Other Rip Offs

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Age Discrimination and Other Rip Offs

     I am 71-years old and considered pretty well preserved—in good health, mental faculties intact, exercise regularly, have good reflexes, excellent corrected vision and have been driving since I was sixteen. A car is like an extension of my body and I don't think about driving any more than I think about how I walk. Well, full disclosure, at the moment I'm in the middle of doing rehab for the leg I broke last February when I lost my balance while doing a yoga exercise, so I do think about walking for the time being.

        OK, so my drivers license is due for renewal in December when I will be 72 and I would normally get a reminder to report to the Drivers License Center for renewal. But this year, I got a notice in the mail saying that I would have to undergo an additional procedure before I could even think of going for the usual renewal.

        If I wish to renew my drivers license I must report to the facilities of a local driving school, attend a three-hour lecture in Japanese (less than one third of which I will understand) and pay the exorbitant amount of 5,800 [about US$60] on a fixed income for the privilege. Then, and only then, will I be allowed to apply for a renewal of my drivers license.

        At first I was so pissed off, that I told my wife that I was thinking about not bothering to renew it and let her do the driving. She, however, has had to have surgery on both her eyes for retinal problems and has difficulty driving at night, whereas I have no such problem. So, I will have to undergo the inconvenience and boredom of an incomprehensible three-hour lecture and shell out the fee as an extra added insult.

        There may or may not be some reasons for raising this obstacle to senior drivers, but the cost and location of this lecture make it suspect. Also, there are no physical tests involved to screen for vision and coordination that would make some sense. No, only an endlessly boring (even if you can understand it) lecture and a rip off fee of $60. As for the location, it isn't even in a public traffic safety facility, but in a private driving school. You should know that driving schools in Japan charge outrageous fees for their driving lessons. I've often suspected, tough I have no proof (except maybe for this choice of a lecture venue), that there is a tacit agreement between the examiners and the schools to fail the students a few times in order to increase revenue. The school gets to charge for additional lessons, and the license center gets another fee for each additional driving test. Cozy!

        This pre-renewal lecture is blatant age discrimination and a kind of hidden tax in my estimation. It is well known that Japan is a rapidly aging society and the number of older citizens driving cars is increasing commensurately. In a paper entitled “Analysis of Accidents by Older Drivers in Japan” by Kazumoto Morita and Michiaki Sekine of the National Traffic Safety and Environment Laboratory, Japan, among the overall number of traffic accidents, those by seniors increased while those for middle aged and younger drivers decreased from 1993 to 2003, probably reflecting the increased ratio of older drivers to younger in the population.

        Comparing the number of accidents per 100,000 drivers license holders, however, the rates for younger drivers from 1993 to 2003 is considerably higher than both middle aged and older drivers and has remained rather consistent around 1,800 accidents per year. There is a slight rise over the same period for both middle aged and older drivers but the line graph is almost parallel averaging about 800 accidents per year--no significant difference between middle aged and older drivers.

        I have to conclude that this pre-condition to getting a drivers license renewal for seniors isn't designed to ensure traffic safety, but to bilk a bit of baksheesh out of the wealthiest element of the Japanese population, the elderly. See, they aren't spending their money to boost the economy, but saving up for their lavishly expensive funerals.

        Me? I'd rather have a drivers license


Anonymous said...

Wow! That is a rip-off! Don't they know in Japan that 70 is the new 50?


Noilly Prattle said...

Oh, they get it all right. Just follow the money...