Older drivers could face more frequent testing in Wisconsin

| 4/15/2005

Wisconsin drivers over the age of 75 could lose their place behind the wheel if a bill currently before the state’s Legislature is approved.

The bill, AB 43, would require drivers older than 75 to pass a vision test every three years, and drivers older than 85 to pass a vision and written test every two years. The licenses of individuals who don’t take the exams when required would be revoked.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, supporters of the bill say part of the problem lies in Wisconsin’s lengthy renewal period. Drivers in the state are currently required to take a vision test and renew their licenses every eight years. This is one of the longest renewal periods in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

So far, the bill has seen little opposition from legislators or the public. Gov. Jim Doyle, who told the Journal Sentinel he had faced a difficult decision of whether to take away the license of an older relative, said the bill will take some of the pressure off of families and place it on the government.

“Right now, the burden falls, believe me, I know this, completely on the family to step up and say, ‘This is the time,’” Doyle said.

However, he added that lawmakers must be careful not to overextend their reach into peoples’ lives.

“There are people in their 80s who are fully capable of being very good drivers,” Doyle said.

Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, told the Journal Sentinel he had also sensed negative reaction within his district.

“This bill is nothing short of an assault on elderly drivers,” said Suder, adding that the main problem with older drivers is reaction time, which the bill does not address. “Simply doing a vision check is not going to solve that problem.”

– By Aaron Ladage, Land Line staff