Proposal: Test Older Drivers
BILL FROM SEN. LEHMAN WOULD REQUIRE MORE VISION EXAMS
January 2, 2014 6:43 am
A proposal from state Sen. John Lehman would make elderly drivers pass vision exams every four years instead of every eight.
In Wisconsin, drivers who have advanced beyond a probationary license must take a vision test every eight years to renew their driver’s licenses. Lehman’s proposal would change that to every four years for those 75 and older; they would have to pass a vision exam but would not have to retake a driving test, the Racine Democrat said.
Individuals would be able to take the vision exam at their regular eye doctor and would not necessarily need to visit a state Division of Motor Vehicles location, Lehman added.
“We decided on the (proposal) the way it is because its price tag is not as high as making sure that everybody goes into the driver’s testing station and has another road test,” Lehman said, explaining the change as proposed would have a very minimal annual cost.
Lehman said his proposal comes from two concerns: elderly drivers being the second-most dangerous group on the roadways, after young, inexperienced drivers; and how difficult it can be to take a driver’s license away from an elderly parent or grandparent.
“What children of older parents run into is trying to make sure there’s a good decision about whether or not mom or dad should be driving and we think that this will help the discussions by making sure that there is a shorter period of time between when that license has to be renewed,” he said.
AARP-Wisconsin spokesman Jim Flaherty acknowledged those family discussions can indeed be difficult but said that doesn’t mean laws should change.
While AARP-Wisconsin will not take a position on the proposal, Flaherty said the organization in general “does not favor legislation that looks at drivers based solely on their age. Diminished capacity of driving is not necessarily linked to age.
“It’s up to our state and our department of motor vehicle regulators to be monitoring people (based) more on medical capacity than (on) age,” he continued.
Flaherty said that’s especially important when dealing with older drivers, whose independence often hinges on being able to drive themselves around town.
Numerous other states already have more frequent examination periods for older drivers, though, Lehman said.
There is no specific timeline for when his proposal might be taken up by the state Senate. The proposal also comes from 86-year-old state Sen. Fred Risser, a Madison Democrat who Lehman said is the Senate’s oldest member.