Illinois Considers Easing License Renewal Rules for Seniors Despite Safety Record

Illinois legislators consider easing driver's license renewal requirements for seniors aged 79 and above, despite statistics showing they are among the safest drivers. A proposed bill would eliminate mandatory road tests, arguing they are discriminatory and unfair to seniors.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Illinois Considers Easing License Renewal Rules for Seniors Despite Safety Record

Illinois Considers Easing License Renewal Rules for Seniors Despite Safety Record

Illinois legislators are considering a proposal to ease driver's license renewal requirements for seniors aged 79 and above, despite statistics from Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias showing that seniors are among the safest drivers in the state. Proponents of the measure argue it is a public safety issue, not a civil rights issue.

Why this matters: This debate has implications for the broader conversation around ageism and discrimination, as well as the balance between public safety and individual freedom. As thepopulation ages, policies like these will have a significant impact on the lives of millions of Americans.

Illinois currently has the strictest requirements in the nation for older drivers. Drivers who are 79 or 80 must take a driving test if their license has expired, while those aged 81-86 must take a road test every two years. Drivers 87 and older are required to take an annual road test to renew their license.

State Rep. Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore) introduced House Bill 253 to eliminate the mandatory road tests, arguing that many seniors regard them as discriminatory. "I don't think having a birthday is a good enough reason for that to occur," Keicher stated. The bill garnered 45 co-sponsors and passed out of the Transportation: Vehicles & Safety Committee with just one dissenting vote before being sidetracked into the Rules Committee.

Research indicates that seniors tend to self-regulate and adjust their driving habits to stay safe, such as limiting themselves to daytime driving if they have trouble seeing at night. A report from Secretary Giannoulias' office last September noted that "Statistics show that our senior drivers are among the safest drivers in the state." In 2021, the National Safety Council found that drivers 75 and older were involved in 3,263 fatal crashes nationwide, fewer than any other age group. Drivers aged 25-34, in contrast, were involved in 13,200 fatal crashes.

The trucking industry, which requires commercial driver's licenses and behind-the-wheel tests, also employs many older drivers. The Illinois Trucking Association reports that 34% of its member companies utilize drivers aged 75 or older. Nationwide, the number of people 65 and above is projected to top 70 million, with 85-90% of them licensed to drive, according to AAA.

Keicher emphasized that the real danger on Illinois roads is from careless and speeding drivers who sometimes hit emergency responders on roadsides. He believes the state should focus on treating senior drivers fairly while cracking down on the dangerous drivers who pose the biggest crash risks. State Sen. Don DeWitte (R-St. Charles) has refiled the bill in the Senate, hoping it can still pass both chambers this legislative session.

Key Takeaways

  • Illinois considers easing driver's license renewal requirements for seniors aged 79 and above.
  • Current law requires seniors to take road tests, with frequency increasing with age.
  • Statistics show seniors are among the safest drivers in Illinois, with low fatal crash rates.
  • Proponents argue the current law is discriminatory and unfair to seniors.
  • The bill to eliminate mandatory road tests has bipartisan support and awaits further action.