Southern port city receives unexpected welcome from elderlies who wish to quit driving

Park Sae-jin Reporter Posted : 2018-07-11 14:09 Updated : 2018-07-11 14:09
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SEOUL --  The local government office of the southern port city of Busan is receiving unexpected positive reaction among elderlies of more than 64 years of age by persuading them to surrender their driver's license by choice. More than 500 people have given up their licenses during the last two months.

Although there is no clear evidence that elderlies are likely to cause a car accident, People all over the world are debating over whether governments should restrict older people from driving. Same debates took place in South Korea, where the society is aging rapidly, especially after a 2016 incident which a 76-year-old driver toppled over a tourist bus, killing four people, on an expressway when he tried to change lanes excessively and got in front of the bus.

Busan city has begun the project campaign for voluntary returning of driver's licenses in May and there are hundreds of old people who are willing to give up their licenses. "So far, we have received about 500 letters from campaign applicants during the last two months. Honestly, the reaction is bigger than we expected," Lee Hyun-joo, the director at Busan city's transport management division, told Aju News Wednesday, adding there are a few hundreds more letters which are not yet processed.

As compensation, participants are given a public transportation voucher card worth 100,000 won ($89) and a discount benefit card which can be used at hospitals, restaurants and optical stores. Old people find the discount card useful as they visit hospitals and restaurants often, the official said.

The city government is planning to secure a larger budget next year to provide bigger and continuous compensation for elderlies. "We are aware that the current compensation is not enough and we will try to provide the participants with more benefits next year," she said. The director estimated that the increasing rate of the number of applicants will be larger if the campaign is backed by the city budget.

During the last 10 years, the rate which elderlies get involved in a car accident has quadrupled to about 29,000 cases from 2006's 7,000, according to Korea Insurance Development Institute, a research institute founded by an association of insurance companies. Some South Korean lawmakers are pushing to revise laws regarding the regular driving aptitude test, which is required every five years, to shorten the cycle.

Japan, which has the oldest population in the world, made compulsory for drivers aged 75 years and older to take an inspection to prove they are fit to drive. If an old person scores poorly, he or she must be examined by a doctor before he can drive again. The Japanese government also encourages elderlies to surrender their licenses and in 2017, about 405,000 people quit driving.