Today I attended the mandatory senior drivers' training course, which includes a vision test, lecture on new traffic regulations, and a brief practical driving test. The course is provided by local driving schools at the behest of the prefectural safety commission and the National Police Agency that oversees them. Mine was done at the Saitama Motor Driving School not far from the riverbank and the station. After considerable concern over whether I would be assessed as capable of driving, and thus qualifying for the upcoming renewal of my driver's license, I am very pleased that I passed the test handily, and can now go over to the local police headquarters and get my license renewed for a few more years.
Since I've been driving several times each week with no problems, including going back and forth to the rehab center and various shopping trips, I wasn't worried about my driving not making the grade. In a culture where appearances are important, though, I was slightly anxious about the response that I would get from the driving test staff when they found that I need a walker to get to the driver's seat. In effect, they were having to pass on the safe driving ability, in an unmodified car, of a guy who cannot walk properly.
To their credit, all of the staff were very gracious and professional, arranging for me to sit near the door and minimizing the distances I had to walk. The actual testers very matter-of-factly asked "Can you drive?", and when I assured them that I can, they went out of their way to accommodate me, folding up and storing the walker, hovering nearby if they thought I might need balance assistance, and the like.
The entire operation went very smoothly, and I now intend to head over to the main police station to get my license renewed, maybe as soon as tomorrow, the first day of the renewal period, which is a month on either side of my upcoming birthday.
I'm very happy to have overcome that small but important senior driving assessment hurdle.