CHICAGO (CBS) — You might know the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office requires seniors of a certain age to take a driver’s test to keep their license – but a new requirement to make an appointment for that test has many spending days, even weeks, just trying to follow the state’s rules.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina brought the issue to the state Monday.
Luck is what it takes to follow the state’s rules and requirements when it comes to senior drivers, according to Lou Gross.
“It’s luck – and it shouldn’t be down to luck,” said Lou Gross.
Gross ran up against numerous days that were grayed out with no appointments available.
“The stress and frustration – and wanting to go down and bang on someone’s door and say, ‘You try this and see how you like it!'” Gross said.
Gross is one of a number of seniors from whom we have heard. He is frustrated and fed up with the state requirement that went into place at offices across Illinois Sept. 1 – making the senior driver’s tests, which are mandatory for license renewal, available by appointment only.
Illinois is the only state that requires drivers 75 and up to pass a road test to renew their license.
As Gross looked at the website for Illinois DMV appointments Monday, he found an appointment was available. But when he went to check out details, there was a problem.
“This one says Bridgeview – it’s 25 miles. It says it, but there’s nothing to click on,” he said.
It took more than two weeks of checking the DMV website at all hours of the day for Gross finally to get an appointment at an office half an hour away – not the office closest to him.
And at 81, he will have to go through all of it again in two years.
His hope in speaking out, the state will make this process better for everyone long before then.
“My wife works. I work,” Gross said. “I think maybe people have an impression of seniors like we have nothing better to do than sit around all day waiting for appointments.”
We first reached the Secretary of State’s office with the concerns we’ve been hearing since the appointment requirement went into effect more than a month ago – asking for a sit-down interview.
On Monday, we received answers to our questions in writing, and the office did not acknowledge concerns we raised about difficulty securing appointments – saying in part: “The Skip-the-Line program has been functioning at a high level since it’s official launch. Since launching the program on Sept. 1, more than 435,000 appointments have been scheduled.”
The Secretary of State’s office went on to say customers are experiencing little to no wait times.
But that wasn’t Gross’ experience.
“My appointment was for 3 p.m.,” he said. “I don’t think I got in the car until it was like 4:30, 20 to 5.”
Gross had a message for the Secretary of State’s office.
“If you’re going to require us to do this so frequently, find a way to make this easier,” he said.
Gross also had an idea for a different method the Secretary of State’s office could use.
“It would not be very difficult to say I need an appointment, and specify the office and the time range, and you do it for me – and send me an email: ‘There’s an appointment at this time at this office, which you said is convenient. Push this button and we will book it, and if not, we will put you back in the queue,” he said. “That would make it easy for me, let them have some control. It would be a win-win.”
LL TAG: Again, we first reached the state with these concerns weeks ago. You can read the state’s response to our questions, in full, in the story up on our website right now.
You’ll also find more from state lawmakers, as we continue to dig into this issue.
Reporting in Deerfield, I’m Tara Molina, CBS 2 News
SOT FROM INTERVIEW ON A METHOD HE THINKS SEC OF STATE COULD USE TO IMPROVE- PLEASE INCLUDE:
Below are the Secretary of State’s office’s complete answers to our questions.
Q: We’ve heard from some viewers who have experienced difficulty getting appointments, particularly for road tests. What can you tell us about that? How would you say the system is working so far?
A: The Skip-the-Line program has been functioning at a high level since it’s official launch. Since launching the program on Sept. 1, more than 435,000 appointments have been scheduled.
Customers with appointments are also experiencing little to no wait times. This is a vast improvement compared to the hour-plus wait times Illinoisans had come to expect prior to the Skip-the-Line program’s adoption.
Q: Possible changes being made?
- Since launching Skip-the-Line on Sept. 1, the Secretary of State’s office has opened two walk-in centers for seniors, located in Bridgeview and Evanston. These centers prioritize seniors without impacting customers at DMVs who have made appointments. Seniors still have the option to make a standard appointment at these and other locations, and there is an increased number of available appointment slots. Since opening the Senior Centers one month ago on Sept. 25, nearly 6,500 seniors have visited and processed transaction. The centers are located at the Evanston Civic Center (2100 N. Ridge Road) and Bridgeview’s Seat Geek Stadium (7000 S. Harlem Ave.). Both facilities are open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Our office is also expanding scheduling availability, which will increase the number of in-car/road test appointments at Chicagoland DMVs by over 40%, or nearly 1,300 per day.
- There are also additional call center features to serve seniors aged 70 and older who require a road exam. Callers will be routed directly to operators who can provide on-the-spot information, schedule appointments at the senior’s location of choice or assist with online renewals. Seniors may call 800-252-8980.
- The appointment website has also since been updated so that customers can filter DMVs by zip code, highlighting appointment openings at DMVs closest to them.
- We are constantly making adjustments to the program based on data and customer trends.
Q: It would also be very helpful if you could send information on current requirements for seniors and the change in age the Secretary of State is working to make (raising required test from 75 to 79).
Secretary Giannoulias has recommended adjusting the age requirements for mandatory senior driving tests from 75 to 79, which would make Illinois more consistent with other states. For the past dozen years, Illinois has been the only state in the nation that requires senior drivers to have their behind-the-wheel skills tested on a regular basis. The recommendation will extend the emergency-rule for this initiative, which started during the pandemic.
The Secretary of State’s office compiled a study earlier this year that showed Senior drivers are among the safest in the state, according to accident-related data.
There are more than 9.1 million licensed drivers in Illinois. Of those, approximately 280,000 individuals are between the ages of 75 and 78. This means 3% of the driving population would be impacted by the permanent implementation of this initiative.
Please find the Sept. 27 press release with more information online here.
AARP Illinois released this statement on the issue:
“AARP Illinois has heard from our members that it has been difficult to secure an appointment and that availability has not been convenient for some seniors. We take those concerns seriously and have shared them with the Secretary of State, who has welcomed the feedback and expressed a commitment to making adjustments.
“The Secretary of State’s office has developed a line (1-800 252-8980) dedicated exclusively for seniors. And it has designated two facilities – Evanston and Bridgeview – as senior-only, with no appointments needed.
“But as with the roll-out of any new system, AARP Illinois understands the kinks will be ongoing and the conversation needs to be, too. We’ve planned a telephone town hall with the Secretary of State live on the line to discuss the new program and take questions on Nov. 15 at 10 a.m. Anyone can participate by visiting AARP Illinois on Facebook where it will be livestreamed.”
Meanwhile, Illinois state Rep. Tom Weber is calling for changes to the way the Secretary of State’s office handles its services:
“The Governor has spent a lot of time talking about record revenues for the state created by expanded gambling and marijuana sales taxes, but instead of investing those revenues in improved services for residents, they’ve been spent on pet projects while necessary services have continued to decline,” said State Representative Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa), who represents the 64th House District in northern Lake and McHenry Counties. “This decline in services is on full display by the changes made at the Secretary of State’s Office, particularly for seniors and those who work during the day. My office has been inundated by residents unable to book an appointment under the new system. A problem compounded for my constituents as we have no facilities in the district, and facilities in neighboring areas do not offer Saturday service, effectively forcing residents to take time off work.
“Some residents have come to the point of going to a facility in person to book an appointment after days of failed attempts to book online or over the phone, yet some are still being turned away. This is especially difficult for seniors struggling with the hard-to-navigate system and little to no support that exists for them. It should not take any senior weeks to get an appointment for a required driver’s test. Residents deserve better, and this has to be addressed immediately.”
Source : CBS News