In Transit: Road test failure raises questions for suburban senior. Here are some answers
By Marni Pyke
The 78-year-old Rolling Meadows woman was distraught. One mistake on her road test in Schaumburg -- failing to turn the wheels the right way while parking on a hill -- and she lost her driver's license, she said in a voicemail message.
When we reconnected a week later -- all was well. The woman, who did not want her name used, had taken the test in Lake Zurich on roads with less traffic and passed.
With the graying of the car-dependent suburbs, the encounter raised plenty of questions. Can you retake a driver's test? How many bloopers does it take before you fail? And, do older drivers come under additional scrutiny?
It may seem longer, but the average driving test runs eight to 15 minutes, Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker explained. And, no, "seniors do not have longer tests."
What they do have are more tests and renewals.
Typically a driver's license is valid for four years for ages 21 through 80. From age 81 through 86, renewals are every two years and once you turn 87 -- it's an annual process. Drivers 75 and older must take a road test to renew their licenses.
Will turning your wheels the wrong way on a hill doom your license? Doubtful, officials say.
"An accumulation of 36 points or more (out of a possible 220) is considered a failed drive test," Druker said. Points can be taken off for not using turn signals, for example, driving too fast or slow, or not stopping before a marked cross walk.
Dangerous actions or not cooperating with your examiner mean an automatic fail.
Do examiners typically tell people what they did wrong?
"Examiners are not required to tell the person what they did wrong, but they try to let them know. Sometimes it can be very obvious," Druker said.
If you fail however, don't despair. Drivers are allowed six attempts before needing a medical report (if they haven't submitted one in the last 90 days), Druker said.
"They are allowed to take the test twice in one day on their first attempt. After the first day they can take the test once daily."
From January through September 2018, 9.8 percent of drivers age 75 and up failed their tests compared to the overall rate of 11.4 percent, officials said.
Age brings wisdom, AAA finds, noting that mature drivers in their 50s and 60s have among the lowest crash rates. However, driving can become more challenging when vision, hearing and reflexes diminish, causing crash rates to increase when people hit their late 60s and 70s.
AAA has advice on what cars to drive, side-effects of medication and a self-rating tool for older drivers at seniordriving.aaa.com.
The Secretary of State's office also offers Rules of the Road review courses for seniors and people with disabilities. To learn more, go to cyberdriveillinois.com/services/services_for_seniors/programs.
Ever worried about a loved one's diminishing driving skills? The AARP provides tips for assessing if a senior is safe behind the wheel and how to start a conversation on what's often a sore subject at aarp.org/auto/driver-safety/driving-assessment.
Got an opinion on senior driving? Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One more thing:
Seniors will represent about 18 percent of the region's population by 2040 compared to 11 percent in 2010, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning calculates. Seniors age 76 and older will comprise 10 percent of the population in 2040 compared to 5 percent in 2010.
That means the region needs to provide more options from transit to volunteer driver programs to accessible, safe streets for older suburbanites, experts say.
• Try to avoid northbound Lake Street in Libertyville now through Nov. 18 between Peterson Road and Route 120. Lanes are closed to remove and replace a Metra retaining wall that collapsed in September.
• Watch out for lane closures on the Waukegan Road bridge over the Edens Spur Tollway in Northbrook now through early December. The tollway is repairing the bridge as part of Edens reconstruction.
You should know:
An interchange is planned on the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) and 88th Avenue/Cork Avenue in Justice.
Illinois tollway, municipal, Cook County, IDOT and federal officials signed an agreement last week to build the $30 million project that should ease traffic on local roads and provide better access to Toyota Park.
Currently the plan allows for a northbound exit from I-294 and a southbound entrance to I-294. The tollway will pay half the cost.
Know your license plate number?
It's going to be helpful paying for street parking in Chicago with a new meter system going into effect.
New touch-screen pay boxes ask customers to type in their license plate, which means you won't have to trudge and stick a receipt on the dashboard.
Updating 36,000 meters will take through mid-2019. If you want to learn more or pay for parking on a smartphone app, go to chicagometers.com.