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The Osaka Prefectural Police plans to introduce a program allowing older drivers to experience what life without a car would be like before they actually surrender their licenses.

With car accidents involving older drivers in the spotlight as a social issue, the police hope the program will help encourage such drivers to give up their licenses voluntarily, an official said.

The program was well received when it was conducted on a trial basis in September. Some participants said it was a good opportunity for them to think about what to do about their licenses.

The program will encourage older drivers to take public transportation or ride bicycles instead of driving a car. They will be allowed to drive while participating in the program.

Participants will be asked to write down comments after a day of not driving a car and keep records of destinations and other details when they drive, a tactic aimed at helping them realize that using taxis can be more economical than owing a car depending on the frequency and distance of their travel.

Twenty people took part in the 20-day trial, incentivized with taxi tickets worth ¥2,000 and discount vouchers usable in a local shopping district. One of them surrendered the license after the trial, the police said.

Kiyotsugu Ogawa, 77, a participant in the trial, said: “You can go shopping by bicycle if you are going to buy bread or ham. But if you buy daikon or onions, you need a car.”

During the trial, Ogawa needed to drive his car several times for such purposes as shopping and taking his wife to and from a hospital.

Ogawa said he will maintain his driver’s license for a while because he does not want his activities to be limited. But he now pays more attention to his driving skills and has a clearer picture about life without a car after participating in the program, he said.

Naoya Kanda, a professor at Tohoku University of Community Service and Science who studies traffic psychology, said whether people give up their driver’s licenses depends on how much of the resulting inconvenience they can accept.

Drivers are not familiar with a life dependent on trains and buses, Kanda said. “Providing people with an opportunity to experience a life without a car is very effective in helping them consider giving up their licenses,” he said.

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