Who better to advocate for safe driving later in life than Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison?
Risser, 86, the longest serving state lawmaker in the nation, just proposed smart legislation requiring drivers 75 years and older to renew their licenses — and have their eyes checked — every four years, instead of the current eight.
The change is overdue, and the full Senate should approve Risser’s bill, which he’s now circulating at the Capitol for co-sponsors.
Risser isn’t picking on older folks like himself. He’s simply encouraging more safety for a group of drivers who, after teenagers, tend to have more traffic accidents.
Teenagers already have extra regulation of their driving privileges that go far beyond what Risser is proposing. And most states have regulation of older drivers that go well past Risser’s provisions.
Most states have accelerated renewal periods or require vision or road tests — some for drivers older than 60 or 65. Some states demand full physicals, which can be expensive.
Risser is active and in good health: He added 2,600 miles, for example, to his bicycle’s odometer this year. He remains an authority on the Senate’s complicated rules. He’s long led the fight for public health laws such as the smoking ban in bars.
Risser said Wednesday he drives his 2011 Toyota Camry with confidence.
“I feel I’m a good driver,” he said. “But I do realize that my eyes do change. I’ve noticed I have to have them adjusted.”
A license renewal every four years would get more older state residents to think about whether they should be behind the wheel, he suggested. Transportation officials tell Risser that passage of his bill will quickly persuade some people who probably shouldn’t be driving to quit.
The bill will not require older drivers to make an extra trip to the Division of Motor Vehicles. His bill allows older drivers to take the more frequent eye test with their doctor. And they’ll be able to renew their license by mail or electronically.
Family members must play a role in persuading elderly drivers to hang up their car keys if their driving is becoming dangerous. That may be the most effective solution.
Yet Risser’s bill makes good sense and is well intended. It’s a minor inconvenience for improved safety.