Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin may test elderly drivers more frequently

| 4/6/2007

An Oregon state lawmaker wants to toughen the renewal process for elderly drivers in Oregon. Similar efforts are underway in Texas and Wisconsin.

Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, has introduced a bill that would require Oregon drivers age 75 and older to renew their licenses and undergo testing more frequently. State law now requires all drivers to renew their licenses every eight years. Drivers more than 50 years old must take acuity and field-of-vision tests.

The bill would require older drivers to renew their licenses every four years. They also would be required to pass eyesight and driving-skills tests, the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported.

Opponents say it’s unfair to single out elderly drivers. Supporters say the change is necessary to help keep the state’s roads safe. They cite statistics from the Oregon Department of Transportation that show while drivers 75 and older have an accident rate only slightly lower than beginning drivers.

Others say it is important to address now the concerns about older drivers. They point out the number of drivers 65 and older are the country’s fastest-growing demographic. By 2030, the number of drivers in that age group is expected to double to 70 million.

The bill – HB2639 – is in the House Ways and Means Committee.

In the Lone Star State, the Senate approved a bill that would require drivers at age 79 to take a vision test to renew their licenses. The licenses would be valid for six years – the same as current law.

The bill – SB180 – also would require drivers to renew their licenses every two years after they turn 85. In addition, officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety would have the authority to order driving tests.

The Texas House approved a separate bill that would allow elderly drivers a few more years before being required to pass vision tests to renew their licenses. The bill – HB84 – would require drivers to take the test at age 90.

Both bills have been forwarded to the other chamber for further consideration. A compromise will need to be negotiated between the two chambers to enact stricter rules.

A bill in the Wisconsin Assembly would require persons age 75 to 85 to take free vision test or submit results from a doctor’s test every three years. The measure – AB2 – would require drivers over age 85 to be required to take vision and written knowledge tests every two years.

Existing state law allows for renewal of driver’s licenses every eight years.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor