April 22, 2005

The JAMA & JAF 2005
Senior Drivers’ and Safe-Driving Programs
Will Take Place at 62 Locations Nationwide, from Hokkaido to Kyushu
One-Day, Hands-On Programs Teach Skills to Help Reduce Traffic Accident Occurrence

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) and the Japan Traffic Safety Association—with key support from the National Police Agency, individual prefectural police headquarters, prefectural traffic safety associations and other organizations—are once again this year jointly sponsoring the “JAMA & JAF Senior Drivers’ Program” and the “JAMA & JAF Safe-Driving Program” throughout Japan.Drivers who have held a driver’s license for at least one year are eligible to enter these one-day sessions that train participants in practical safe-driving skills so that they may be better prepared to prevent accident occurrence.

The Troubling Status of Road Accidents in 2004

Road fatalities in Japan in calendar year 2004 totalled 7,358, or 344 fewer than in the previous year, when they dipped below 8,000 for the first time in 46 years (having peaked in 1970 at 16,765). Nevertheless, in 2004 both the number of traffic accidents (952,191, up 4,198 from 2003) and the number of accident-related injuries (1,183,120, up 1,689) set all-time highs, underscoring a perilous trend in road traffic in Japan.

Road fatalities involving “senior citizens” (65 years or older) totalled 3,046 last year, or 63 fewer such fatalities than in 2003. However, the share of senior road fatalities in total road fatalities in 2004 rose by 1% to 41.4%, while the number of driver's license holders aged 65 or older rose to just over 9.27 million persons (an increase of almost half a million persons in this age category over 2003), according to a National Police Agency study. Hand in hand with this growing presence of elderly drivers on the road is the rise in the number of accidents resulting in injury or death that are caused by drivers in this age group. In 2004 accidents caused by elderly drivers totalled 100,930, an increase of about 6,114 over 2003, and the first time ever that such accidents topped the 100,000 mark.

In its April 2004 publication titled Working Towards a Sound Automotive Future, JAMA outlined its road safety activities for the coming decade, focusing on eight priority areas including special measures for the elderly. As part of these activities, the implementation of the JAMA and JAF-sponsored senior drivers’ and safe-driving programs aim to improve driving skills to help prevent the occurrence of road accidents. The sponsors, meanwhile, hope to further develop the content of these programs and expand the number of venues and the frequency at which they are held, as well as the number of persons participating in them.

Overview of the JAMA & JAF Senior Drivers’ Program:
The Senior Drivers’ Program was launched in 1996 to enable elderly drivers to become more aware of their own driving habits and limitations and thereby to foster safe-driving practices. Designed for drivers aged 65 or older but open to drivers aged 50 or over, the program boasts a cumulative participation, in a total of 127 locations, of about 3,000 persons, many of whom reported that the program helped them make important observations—for example, with respect to their slower reactions to traffic signals.

The program’s content covers vehicle safety checks, driving posture, blind spots, air bag deployment, braking on slippery surfaces, right-hand turns at intersections, crossing intersections in poor visibility, and so on. Hands-on sessions are followed up with question-and-answer periods between participants and instructors.

The 2005 Senior Drivers’ Program will be conducted in 23 locations from Hokkaido to Kyushu, with the inaugural session to be held on May 21 (Sat) in Wakayama Prefecture.

Overview of the JAMA & JAF Safe-Driving Program:
First held in 1991, the Safe-Driving Program is open to any driver holding a license for at least one year, regardless of age, and is designed so as to enable drivers to advance their understanding of vehicle characteristics, performance limits and other factors, in order to improve their safe-driving skills. In a larger sense, the program also seeks to promote a wide awareness of the need for improved safe-driving practices. By the end of 2004, the program had been held in a total of 242 locations with the participation of about 7,000 persons, many of whom commented that the program was very helpful in making them become aware of their own inadequate reaction time.

Program content begins with confirmation of driving basics, then moves on to straight and curved roads, sudden braking, cornering, and many of the practical aspects of driving that are also covered by the Senior Drivers’ Program, thus providing participants with valuable pointers on how to react to and deal with real-life road situations.

The 2005 Safe-Driving Program will be conducted in 39 locations from Hokkaido to Kyushu, kicking off on May 1 (Sun) in Obihiro, Hokkaido.