Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Learning to Drive II

Lewis Packwood Lewis said...

I'm so glad I don't have to take the test - it sounds like an absolute nightmare.

Oh, it definitely is a nightmare. Not because of the test, per se (the test is mind-numbingly simple, FAR simpler than the test I had to take in America). The test isn't hard, it's exacting. Another frustration is the fact that if I want to go practice on the course, I have to be accompanied by someone who has had a Japanese license to drive for more than three years. Meanwhile, I can STILL DRIVE ON THE STREETS. Why do I have to be accompanied? I could understand it, if I didn't have a license AT ALL, but I HAVE a license! I'm legal to drive! Argh!

(deep breaths)

:-) The truly sadly coincidental part of it is the REASON Americans have to take the test.

Some countries (like Canada, if I recall correctly) have reciprocal agreements with Japan. Have a Canadian license? You can get a license here. Have a Japanese license? You can get a license there.

Another part of it is safety. If you are from an area with relatively low frequency of accidents, you are deemed safe enough to drive here.

Here's the coincidental part: Japanese drivers have more accidents than Americans (especially here in Fukui, because of the high ratio of car ownership).

Here's a fun quote from the Japanzine Danger Meter (mirrored here):
Car accidents were the fifth leading cause of death in the year 2003. Although the roads are getting safer thanks to anti-drunk driving campaigns and tougher penalties for reckless driving, driving a car on Japan’s roads is infinitely more dangerous than skydiving, eating mochi, or living in Afghanistan.
The only things that beat car accidents were:
  1. Cancer
  2. Heart Disease
  3. Cerebrovascular Disease (strokes)
  4. Pneumonia
Things that killed less people that car accidents include suicide, old age, renal failure, liver diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

So, even though Americans, on average, are safer drivers, they don't fall into the same category as Canadians because the statistics aren't broken down by region. Sure, Americans are safer, on average, but what about Americans from Washington State? The paperwork hasn't been submitted, and probably won't be, because if you have a Japanese license, you can't automatically get an American license (possibly because of the aforementioned accident statistics)! So, it's not reciprocal.

Here's a better worded explanation from the AJET Driving in Japan book:
Q: We're Americans. Why do we have to take the practical test and not the Canadians? They drive on the right, too!

A: Three reasons. First, American licenses are done by the state government and not the federal government, making a reciprocal agreement tricky since they would have to look into 50 states (as opposed to only 13 colonies in Canada - which did take years to accomplish). Second, the Japanese have to go through an even harder process to get an American license since their international driving permits are valid for less than a month. Third, because they're evil.

Tomorrow I take the test again. We shall see just how many tries it takes me.


  1. Wait, eating mochi is dangerous?

    After I read your first post about the driving test, I had a dream wherein I had to drive really close to the side of the road.

  2. Gambatte!!!! I know most JETs take about three or four goes to pass the test, but it has been done in one go before, so there's definitely a chance they might decide to pass you on your second go. Unless they're particularly strapped for cash that day and want you to pay for a re-take of course.

  3. So, how many times has it taken between now and your last post?