If you think the upcoming fights in Madison over what to do with the budget surplus or whether to expand the school voucher program are going to be long and nasty, just wait until the Legislature begins debate on a bill from Senators Fred Risser and John Lehman that will require senior drivers to pass behind the wheel tests to retain their licenses.
Senators Risser and Lehman want anyone over 75 to return to the DMV every four years to not only prove they can still see--but that they can also still handle a vehicle on the road. The bill is based on the FACTS that older drivers get into more accidents--and more fatal crashes than anyone but teenage drivers.
Click here to enjoy one of the all-time best South Park episodes dealing with this subject
Not surprisingly, AARP is already drawing up its battle plan to fight this bill tooth and nail should it ever come up for a vote. They will not make their argument that pulling seniors off the road because they can't pass a test won't make us safer (even though it will)--or that the DMV doesn't have the staff to test that many drivers every year (which they likely don't). Their talking point will be that if seniors have to pass a road test--then EVERYONE should have to pass a road test to keep their licenses. It's not "fair" that a higher-risk group is held to a different standard than a lower-risk group--no matter how many facts and figures you might have to prove your point. (Kind of reminds you of the debate over health care coverage and premiums for those with pre-existing conditions) Oh, and don't forget--Seniors vote, Senators Risser and Lehman! (Which is why teen drivers have the graduated license law and limits on when they can drive and who can be in the vehicle with them--they don't vote)
My only problem with the bill is that it requires the behind the wheel test only every four years. Anyone who has had a family member with dementia knows a lot can change in just one year--much less four. And vision problems have faster timelines than that as well. If I could amend the bill, I'd require the test EVERY YEAR. Fortunately, the retired have more time to spend sitting in the DMV waiting area than the rest of us.
And as for the test itself, may I recommend requiring the navigation of multiple roundabouts? And that requirement stands even if the nearest roundabout is 250-miles away. You never know, they may come to "visit" somewhere the DOT has decided needs to have roundabouts at every interchange and busy intersection. And let's also require the senior drivers tool around grocery and department store parking lots as part of the test. You can hire professional stuntmen to serve as the "pedestrians" so innocent bystanders are sent scurrying by the "I'm backing up and I don't care what's behind me" maneuver from the Reserved For Senior Citizens parking stalls.
And while we may be sharing a laugh here--keep in mind, there are 76-MILLION Baby Boomers in the US and they will start reaching the age of 75 in the next seven years. You you can bet your bottom dollar that they have no intention of giving up their keys--no matter how dangerous they may become behind the wheel.