There are a lot of traffic accidents involving elderly drivers these days. A pedestrian was killed on the street by a 96-year-old driver in Seoul on February 12th, 2019. Also, on August 6th, 2019, a car with an 82-year-old driver crashed into an outdoor swimming pool in a Jeonju apartment parking lot. A teacher and five children were injured.
In Korea, a large number of people have their driver’s license. According to the Korean Road Traffic Authority’s traffic accident analysis system, as of 2018, 32,161,081 people have obtained their driver’s license. Specifically, as of 2018, there have been 3,070,650 drivers aged 65 and older. Korean society is aging as the birth rate is decreasing, so the rate of car accidents caused by elderly drivers has increased.
Overall, car accidents have declined by about 2.9% over the past five years (from January 2014 to December 2018). The rate of traffic accidents that were caused by drivers in their twenties to fifties went down as well. On the other hand, the number of car accidents caused by people over the age of 65 increased by about 48% during the same period.
One solution implemented by the government to prevent and reduce traffic accidents caused by elderly drivers was to shorten the license renewal period from five years to three years. A representative of the Road Traffic Authority said, “According to the traffic laws that were reformed in 2019, those who are over 75 years of age are required to take cognitive ability tests and complete a safety course to obtain and renew their license.” The government is encouraging elderly drivers to voluntarily return their license when they don't feel confident in their ability to safely drive their cars anymore.
The Busan Nambu (Southern Centre) Driving Test Office has been offering financial incentives to drivers with Alzheimer's disease, and to senior drivers who are willing to return their driver's license. This program is the first of its kind in Korea. The program was launched in July of 2018. More specifically, elderly people living in Busan will be given a transit pass worth 100,000 won after returning their driver’s license and taking safety tests provided by the Driving Test Office.
Since the start of this program, the number of accidental deaths caused by senior drivers decreased to 19 accidents in 2018. These results are promising when compared to the 36 accidents from the year before. However, both the total number of road accidents and the number of injuries increased during the same period in Busan. This date shows that the program has worked to reduce the number of fatal accidents on the road, but it has still not reached the ultimate goal of stopping accidents caused by elderly drivers.
After the launch of Busan's incentive program to prevent car accidents caused by the elderly, many other cities have implemented similar programs. Here are two examples:
At first, Seoul was planning to give a transit card worth 100,000 won to a thousand people over the age of 70 applying to the program. Since there were over 8,000 applicants, Seoul increased the number of transit card recipients to 7,500. The program could not afford to provide transit passes to all 7,500 recipients, so Seoul picked the oldest 3,750 people, and the rest of the recipients were randomly selected on October 2019.
Changwon reported that starting from May 31st, 2019, the government of Changwon will implement a program to incentivize elderly drivers to voluntarily return their driver’s license. The purpose of this program is to decrease traffic accidents caused by the elderly, and to keep the city safe from dangerous traffic issues. The city offers a transit card worth 100,000 won to drivers aged 70 and older who give their license back. If elderly drivers visit Changwon’s Transportation & Logistics Division, the Economic Affairs & Transportation Division, or community service centres with their ID card and a certificate which shows that they returned their license, they will get a transit gift card in return.
By Nam Da-hyeon, cub-reporter email@example.com
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