Bill to end senior road tests ‘still alive’ as lawmakers eye veto session reset

It’s been a bumpy ride in the General Assembly for legislation aimed at eliminating age-related driving tests for seniors, but the sponsors are still hanging in there.

House Bill 4431 has faced obstacles in the Illinois House and Senate, which were suspended last week, but its supporters, Republican Rep. Jeff Keicher and Sen. Don DeWitte, are hoping for better luck during the fall veto session.

Illinois requires drivers ages 79 and 80 to take a driving test when their four-year driver’s license renewal expires. For drivers aged 81 to 86 this is every two years, and for drivers aged 87 and over this is annually.

Illinois is the only state in the US with this requirement, which many seniors describe as burdensome, patronizing and unfair.

Keicher of Sycamore introduced legislation to end the mandate in January and 46 Democrats and Republicans – 40% of the House of Representatives – became co-sponsors. But it was blocked in April by an unknown lawmaker, likely a high-ranking Democrat, he said.

The maneuver infuriated several seniors, including Walter Perlick, 82, of Des Plaines.

“I took the test twice and passed. However, this is a law that discriminates against seniors and should be abolished,” Perlick told the Daily Herald.

Keicher plans to meet with the secretary of state and senior organizations this summer to amend the bill so it can pass the finish line.

Rather than someone’s birthday prompting a test drive, Keicher considers other triggers related to the ability to safely operate a vehicle.

For example, anyone dealing with renewals could be asked to complete an online questionnaire that requires yes or no answers to questions about previous accidents or tickets, physical conditions affecting the safe operation of a vehicle, and diagnoses of mental capacity issues such as dementia or stroke.

Answers may lead to additional online or written tests and possibly behind-the-wheel exams.

This approach should be rolled out to other age groups as well, Keicher said.

“There is still very strong interest in moving forward,” he said.

In the Senate, DeWitte of St. Charles introduced similar legislation that gained momentum but was parked in the Appointments Committee.

“The bill is still alive,” DeWitte said, noting that he had consulted with Democratic Senate President Don Harmon.

Harmon “believes that one of the reasons Illinois has such a low accident rate within that specific senior age range is that we test our senior drivers annually,” DeWitte said.

“However, I shared some national data with him showing that Illinois is on par with national statistics for the percentage of safe drivers within the same age range.”

In short, DeWitte is optimistic that the legislation will be revisited during a veto session.

Asked for comment, Harmon spokesman John Patterson said: “The Senate President is interested in obtaining security data and engaging the Secretary of State on this matter.”

The looming November election might also have derailed the bill this spring, DeWitte noted. But, “I believe there is broad support for this legislation,” he said.

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