Instead of spending a casual Sunday afternoon of on the couch, catching the excitement of the live broadcast of the first F1 race of the 2009 season, my time was spent furthering my own motoring career.
Those of you in the know will may have already noticed that my “new” license is the blue type (not gold). In order to get my renewal it meant spending time in a lecture with ~200 other law breakers. Speeding. If any of you honestly have not been over the speed limit (intentionally or otherwise) you are probably not normal. I just happened to get caught whilst doing it.
The renewal process for me involved the following:
1) Showing up and checking in.
2) Confirming your details are correct, deciding on PIN numbers (more a bit later).
3) Paying for the renewal.
4) Getting your vision checked (the standard Japanese up/down/left/right) check.
5) Getting your photo taken.
7) Exchange old new license for new license!
A fairly simple process handled with regular Japanese efficiency.
Despite all the people I spoke prior to attending telling me that the lecture will be a tedious/boring/useless exercise, I found it (disturbingly) informative. The instructor spent the time highlighting the new type driver’s license and recent/upcoming changes to the road rules all aimed at improving road safety.
As an anti forgery measure, all new Japanese licenses now have a IC chip. The chip contains all the personal information printed on the card as well as country/region of origin (No longer printed on the card). This personal information is only accessible after the entry of two, four digit PIN numbers. There are also some license class changes with normal licenses being automatically converted to the new “middle” class (中型) – provisional to 8 tons.
In addition to the 0 tolerance to drink driving (Blood alcohol 0%), enforcement of the law will be ramped up and penalties being increased from June this year. The penalties will become so severe that it is simply not worth the risk for those who like to go for a sip on the way home – and it is not just the driver who can get done! For example: If proven that person A allowed person B to drive whilst under the influence, person B is not the only one who will receive a additional bill in the mail.
Some other rule changes affecting drivers over 75 years of age (re-testing and compulsory display of “older driver” mark on vehicle) may mean that these drivers will have their licenses revoked.
Overall, I am pleased that Japan seems taking a different approach to road safety (speeding has done to death).
Anyway, another 3 years of driving on Japanese roads approved. It also dawned upon me that I have now spent more time driving here than back home.
PS. Congrats Brawn F1. Honda must be wishing they didn’t sell.