Lawmakers consider more frequent license renewals for older drivers

A Wisconsin resident has her vision screened at the DMV.
A Wisconsin resident has her vision screened at the DMV.

GREEN BAY - A key part of renewing a driver's license is passing a vision screening. Some drivers may soon have to pass that screening more often.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make drivers 75 and older go through the renewal process every four years instead of every eight.

Ronald Schaut of Ashwaubenon supports the idea.

"I got another eight years and I'm 76, so I don't have to go back until I'm 84 years old," said Schaut.

Myrtle Bouche of Green Bay agrees.

"I think it's a good idea because for a lot of people, there's a lot of changes," said Bouche.

This change would mean senior drivers would be required to have their vision screened every four years. Right now, Wisconsin drivers of all ages only have to do that every eight years.

"We don't differentiate by age. It's everybody the same, everybody's treated the same," said Don Genin of the Wisconsin DMV.

State Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, has written a bill that would change that. Risser himself is 86 years old.

"I think that they should test me, yes," said Risser.

He says his idea comes from concerns about safety.

"We want the highways to be as safe as possible for all of us," he said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says although people 65 and older account for nine percent of the drivers on the road, they play a role in 14 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Twenty other states already make seniors renew their licenses more often than younger drivers, but some oppose that.

"I think pinpointing the senior citizen is kind of discriminatory, I think," said Sandee Mehciz of Green Bay.

Mehciz thinks all drivers should have to pass a vision test every four years.

"Cause things change," she said.

A Senate committee heard testimony on the bill earlier this week. That committee needs to approve it before it could be debated by the entire Senate.

Risser hopes that will happen soon, so the bill could be passed before the current Legislative session ends.

Right now, people with some medical conditions like seizures or diabetes can have their licenses canceled. Those decisions are reviewed by the Department of Transportation's medical review unit.

That process is not based on age, and it wouldn't be affected if this bill passes.