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Sycamore Legislator Pushes to End ‘Ageist’ Mandatory Driving Tests for Seniors

SPRINGFIELD - State Rep. Jeff Keicher and AARP are looking to approve House Bill 4431, which would impact driving tests for those 75 years old or older.

Illinois is the only state in the nation that requires drivers 75 and older to retake a driving test as a condition of renewing their driver’s license. Keicher’s legislation could end this practice. Keicher said contrary to what some folks may think, drivers aged 75 and older are not more crash-prone than younger drivers.

"If you’ve had an accident, if you’ve had a ticket, those should be triggers at any age,” said Keicher. “They shouldn’t be based on when you turn 75 or 80. These should be things that are based on the condition of the individual driver and not a holistic policy. The removal of the mandatory test for those over the age of 75 is a critical piece of telling Illinoisans that we want them here."

According to Keicher, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office is neutral on the bill and they’ll honor whatever the legislature decides. He said it is past time to fix the hurdle put in front of seniors in Illinois.

Ryan Gruenenfelder, senior director of advocacy and outreach at Illinois AARP, said it’s not enough that the Secretary of State changed the age requirement.

"As a result of that study, Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias raised the minimum age to take a driver’s test from 75 to 79,” said Gruenenfelder. “The AARP commends that change but we need more. It’s time for Illinois to join the other 49 states to entirely remove age as a factor and align evidence-based practices focusing on functional abilities rather than age.”

A September 2023 report released by the Illinois Secretary of State titled "Study on Age-Related Driving Abilities" revealed that senior drivers are the safest drivers in Illinois.

Illinois Department of Transportation data revealed seniors from 2018 to 2022 experienced lower crash rates when compared to nearly every other age group.

Keicher’s bill does get rid of the requirement where drivers 75 and older have to retake a driving test as a condition of renewing their driver’s license. However, the bill doesn’t address non-age factors that could trigger a non-renewal of a license.

"It simply removes the behind the wheel driver’s test when you renew your license. It doesn’t address other issues that we need to come back and address at a later time. Issues like physical, mental capacity, tickets, accidents and some of those other triggers that I spoke about, that’s not included in this bill,” said Keicher. “Those would be a separate follow-up issue. We just wanted to make a distinction between this ageist policy and what needs to happen on the other side.”

The bill amends the Illinois Vehicle Code for those 75 and older to remove the requirement for “an actual demonstration of the applicant’s ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control of the operation of a motor vehicle.” Keicher said opponents fall into the stereotypes.

"If we included and were able to incorporate, in a follow-up bill, those triggers like physical issues, mental capacity diminishment, tickets or accidents, we’re then in a much better place. We arguably put Illinois at the forefront of safe driving on our roads because we are actually being attentive to the problem areas, regardless of age, instead of just when you have a birthday,” said Keicher.

Keicher said he’s run into opponents who have experienced an accident involving an older driver.

“That person was licensed at the time the accident happened,” said Keicher. “So this doesn’t do anything to stop that from happening.”

A report from 2021, the most recent year of data from the National Safety Council, says drivers 75 and older were involved in only 3,263 fatal crashes, which is 1,500 fewer than the next closest age bracket and dramatically less than the 13,200 fatal crashes involving drivers aged 25 to 34, the highest fatal crash prone age bracket.

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