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Call to renew license more often for older drivers

| December 10, 2013 | 0 Comments
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By: Jackie Johnson-Wisconsin Radio Network

Legislation would have older drivers renew their driver’s licenses twice as often.

State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) is proposing legislation that would require drivers 75 years of age and older to renew their driver’s license every four years, rather than every eight years, which is current law. And, at each renewal, these drivers would have to pass an eyesight exam.

“Seems to me that when a person is up at that age an eight-year license renewal is unrealistic. One’s health changes; one’s eyes change.” Risser says there’s evidence proving his point. “Insurance statistics show that the worse drivers are the real young and the real old.”

Risser had introduced similar legislation earlier this year, but it went nowhere at the statehouse. This revised version of the bill (LRB 1841/2) eliminated the mandatory driving skills exam at each renewal period, which had been in the previous version of Risser’s bill.

Risser says this would be one way to help make the roads a little safer for everyone. He says if older folks are forced to renew their license more often, they might think twice about whether they really ought to be driving.

AUDIO: 22 Risser says this could be the little nudge older drivers need to reevaluate their driving skills.

Critics say this plan is discriminatory. Helen Marks Dicks with AARP-Wisconsin had said it’s unfair to target drivers based on their age. Dicks says a system is already in place for families or friends who are concerned about the abilities of a friend or loved one behind the wheel. The state Department of Transportation operates a tip line that people can call and anonymously report a driver whose skills are questionable or worrisome.

Risser disagrees that his proposal is discriminatory, saying there are already laws requiring changes based on age. “We have people retire at certain ages if they’re in certain classifications of activities. Firemen and policemen have to be in good health and we don’t want them on at 80 years of age.”

At 86, Risser would have to abide by the more frequent renewals, and he’s OK with that.

Nineteen states have accelerated renewal periods for older drivers and thirteen states require vision or road tests once drivers reach a certain age. Wisconsin law does not require either.

Risser and John Lehman (D-Racine) are circulating the bill for co-sponsorship.

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Category: State News

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