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Lawmaker proposes earlier license renewals for older drivers

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Nov 27 2013 07:30:54 PM CST

MADISON, Wis. -

More frequent license renewals and eye exams would be required for some seniors under a proposal at the Capitol.

The bill would require anyone over 75 to renew a license every four years instead of the typical eight years between renewals.

The measure proposed by state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, is still in the drafting phases. Risser, who is 86 and faces a license renewal himself next year, said the measure is needed to make the roads safer, and insurance statistics show older drivers pose a greater risk on the highways.

"As one gets older, your eyes change, your physical capabilities change, your perceptions change," Risser said. "It's just a good idea to have them checked out a little more often."

According to state figures, more than 400,000 of the state's 4 million drivers are over the age of 75.

Jeanette Murray, 83, walked to the Madison Senior Center Wednesday and said she recently renewed her license to drive and was surprised when she got an unrestricted license. She has macular degeneration and now won't drive at night. But she knows the day is coming when she'll put it in park for good.

"I will voluntarily give mine up when I feel uncomfortable, but not everybody does this and I know that," Murray said.

Murray said she's generally supportive of Risser's bill, although she's concerned about paying for a license more often.

"Our eyesight does get older and we have to put up and shut up," Murray said.

Risser said the bill might actually have the consequence of having more drivers voluntarily stop driving.

"It will alert people who are older that maybe some of them want to give up their driving privileges and this just encourages them to think about it a little bit because they know they have to have a renewal," Risser said. "If you have eight years to go, you don't think about it, and some of these drivers on the highway should be reviewed."

Many other states have laws requiring shorter renewal periods, including every two years at age 81 in Illinois, every two years at age 70 in Iowa and every four years for everyone in Minnesota.

But that doesn't mean the bill has a promising future. A similar bill failed in three previous legislative sessions.

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