By on March 25, 2020

Driving schools in Japan are reporting an increase in attendance from individuals who already possess a driver’s license. According to The Japan Times, the new trend is epitomized by Paper Driver School Kitakanto in Maebashi. The school has seen influx of already licensed drivers this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Roughly 10 percent of new students are said to have signed up as a direct result of COVID-19. As Japan’s population has a lower percentage of drivers than in North America, many are dependent upon public transportation to move about — a mobility type that’s become problematic overnight, what with fears of contagion spreading as quickly as the virus itself. To avoid sharing space, some Japanese drivers are attempting to brush up on their skills in order to feel more comfortable behind the wheel. 

“Unlike trains and buses, you don’t come into contact with others in a car,” school representative Michitoshi Sonoda told the outlet.

However, others simply needed a way to get to new workplaces after their previous positions dried up due to the outbreak. One student reportedly took a lesson Thursday after quitting his job in the hospitality sector after the coronavirus impacted the hotel he worked at. Despite holding a license for 20 years, he hadn’t had much of a need for driving.

“I took the lesson because driving for the first time in a while is really scary, and I couldn’t possibly do it alone,” he said.

While we’re doubtful this will transform societies into masses of pro-car zealots, it’s interesting to see how the pandemic is reshaping things — even to a mild degree. Public transit and even ride-hailing firms are seeing noteworthy declines in ridership. In the United States, traffic has also declined immensely in response to the virus, though it’s not keeping pace with trains, buses and cabs.

For example, New York City saw a 76-percent decline in subway ridership this week, with the Long Island Railroad and Metro North seeing similar or worse declines. MTA Busses lost 62 percent of their normal occupancy volumes. Even Uber, which you’d expect to be a popular alternative to mass transit, anticipates declines in ridership averaging between 60 and 70 percent in NYC. By contrast, road traffic has only dwindled 43 percent over the same period — some of which overlaps with declines in ride-hailing.

People clearly prefer being inside their own vehicle during this health crisis. It’s hard to blame them — no one wants to get coughed on when the media says it might be fatal.

You have to wonder how this all shakes out in the long term. Young adults have proven slower to get their license than generations past pretty much everywhere in the developed world; we’re curious to see if that trend changes as more people opt out of sharing space during their commute. After the panic ends, there could be months where citizens feel uneasy about sharing space on a bus or train but still have to go to work. Despite the added expense of owning a vehicle, it doesn’t come with that particular baggage — and could prove a preferable alternative to many.

Still, it’s early days. The big lesson many take away from this could simply be that it’s a lot easier to work from home.

[Image: Aslysun/Shutterstock]

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11 Comments on “Japanese Driving Schools Benefit From Coronavirus Fears; Public Transit Now Terrifying...”

  • avatar

    A large percentage of the Japanese wore facemasks prior to the outbreak. Assuming availability, this has probably increased to nearly all. But most importantly, the Japanese are an extremely polite and considerate people, unlike a number of people I have encountered here who will not even maintain social distancing. Culturally, the Japanese are well suited for combating the epidemic without resorting to private vehicles.

  • avatar

    I cannot imagine how you can maintain social distancing in Japan, too many people not much space. Car ownership is also problematic. No matter how polite Japanese are I would never agree to live there permanently. It would be very dreary and boring life.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I recall over the years seeing film clips of subway attendees with their main job being to shove riders into trains like sardines

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      ‘Dreary and boring’ in what way? After all the majority of North Americans have migrated to large urban centres. The downtown cores in cities like Toronto are teeming with young professionals living in 500 sq ft, super high rise condos. Because they prefer the ‘hustle and bustle’ and cultural amenities of ‘big city life’.

      • 0 avatar

        Imagine coming home at 11pm and waking up and leaving to train station at 5am. Standing (trying to take nap at same time) in train for couple of hours (at least one hour what considered a short commute) in each direction. Do you call it a life? You have to be at job at 8.00-8.30 even if it officially start at 9am. When you leave? All of them aspire to stay overtime at least to 10pm because company pays overtime. Of course if your boss and everyone else staying overtime you are not gonna leave early at 6pm.

  • avatar

    *eurobeat intensifies*

  • avatar

    2020 The Year Of The Introvert

  • avatar

    Live in dense cities. Utilize mass transit. Use reusable grocery bags.

    All three are conducive to being infected, and possibly dying, from coronavirus.

    All three are promoted by progressives.

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