‘This legislation is about respect,’ advocates say of bill nixing senior road tests

Democratic and Republican state lawmakers urged their colleagues Tuesday to pass a law ending road exams for seniors.

Illinois mandates drivers ages 79 and 80 to take a road exam if their four-year license renewal is up. For drivers ages 81 to 86, it’s every two years, and for those 87 and older, it’s yearly.

AARP members want to know “why is Illinois the only state in the nation that still uses age as a factor to make people retake their driving test,” said Ryan Gruenenfelder, senior director of advocacy and outreach for the association.

“It’s time for Illinois to join the 49 other states to entirely remove age as a factor and align evidence-based practices focusing on functional abilities rather than age.”

House Bill 4431, which would eliminate senior behind-the-wheel exams, was introduced by state Rep. Jeff Keicher and has 34 co-sponsors so far.

“I think it’s more appropriate, instead of being ageist and deciding at a certain birthday that you’re no longer able — that we put a dynamic in place that allows for triggers,” the Sycamore Republican said.

Those could include physical or mental health conditions as well as tickets or accidents. They would be introduced later in separate legislation, Keicher noted.

AARP Executive Council member Candace Trees of Springfield said that as a widow, she safely drives herself everywhere she needs to go, whether it’s the grocery store, a medical appointment or to visit friends and family.

“It is unfair that older adults must retest to keep their license in Illinois,” she added. “I’m probably a much better driver than my 18-year-old granddaughter and my 24-year-old grandson. I know I’m a better driver than they are — I don’t have any tickets.”

St. Charles Republican state Sen. Don DeWitte indicated he’d support the bill if it moves out of the House.

“This legislation is about respect, it’s about compassion and it’s about understanding our senior citizens,” DeWitte said.

Democratic state Rep. Joyce Mason of Gurnee, who introduced similar legislation in 2023, said senior drivers are stereotyped by the state’s current policy.

“If we based these decision on data, we’d be doing extra testing for younger drivers, not our seniors,” she said.

Proponents of the bill have cited a recent report from the Illinois secretary of state office that concluded Illinois drivers age 75 and older had a crash rate of 24.39 per 1,000 drivers, the second lowest in the state.

But some legislators with reservations have pointed to a Highway Loss Data Institute/Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study on Illinois’ mandatory test. Compared to neighboring states, researchers found older drivers in Illinois were less risky and made fewer crash-related insurance claims.

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