Police in Aichi Prefecture estimate as many as 30,000 elderly drivers may not be able to get their licenses renewed before they expire. This is due to long queues of senior citizens waiting for a mandatory drivers' workshop.
Experts are warning that similar problems will likely occur in other prefectures and are calling on the government to review the system.
In March 2017, a revised law required drivers aged 75 years old or older to take a cognitive test to get their licenses renewed. Should they fail the exam, they must get driving schools to make a video recording of their driving and take a mandatory workshop. The move came after it became known that an increasing number of traffic accidents are caused by elderly drivers.
Under the new system, drivers aged 75 years old or older wishing to renew their drivers' licenses must visit driving schools twice, should they fail the cognitive test. Driving schools now have long queues of people waiting to fulfill these required procedures.
In Aichi Prefecture, which has the largest number of drivers aged 75 years old or older in Japan, it now takes more than five months on average for an elderly driver to renew their license. To deal with the problem, the prefectural police department is extending the expiry dates for licenses of people who consult them.
Yoshimitsu Himeshima, head of the Drivers' Seminar Center of Aichi Prefectural Police Department, says the prefectural police alone could not deal with the problem and he expects the national government to address the issue.
Chiba University Professor Haruo Suzuki says the number of elderly drivers is only to increase, while the number of driving schools is expected to drop as a result of Japan's shrinking younger population. He says similar problems will occur outside Aichi Prefecture.
Suzuki says it's essential to consider ways to simplify the test and workshop programs while ensuring they are conducive to road safety.