Funeral discounts for elderly Japanese who quit driving

TOKYO - The prospect of a cheaper funeral is being used to entice elderly Japanese drivers to give up their licences as police increase their efforts to prevent accidents caused by ageing motorists.

Fatal accidents involving elderly drivers are a big problem in a country where the population is growing old fast and some 4.8 million people aged 75 or more have a licence.

Last November, a six-year-old boy died and 11 others were injured after an 87-year-old driver's truck hit children walking to school in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

Japan this month introduced a new rule under which drivers aged 75 or older must pass cognitive tests when renewing their licences.

Now, a funeral service company in central Japan has started offering a 15 per cent discount to elderly drivers who give up their licences.

"We've been offering funeral services to those who lost family members in car accidents," Mr Shigenori Ariga of the funeral company, Heiankaku, noted yesterday.

"We want to help prevent deaths caused by such accidents," he said.

Mr Ariga added that the discount was offered after a request by the local police department in Ichinomiya in Aichi prefecture where the funeral business is located.

It is applied to altars used during funerals, he said, adding that the elderly drivers can save a minimum of 56,000 yen (S$700).

The discount applies not just when the drivers who give up their licences die but also when their close family members die.

Separately, police in Aichi last November started offering a ramen noodle discount to elderly drivers who give up their licences via a tie-up with a local restaurant chain.