Can Senior Citizens Apply for a Driving License?
September 15, 2021General Retirement
As more Americans continue driving beyond the age of 70, some may wonder if senior citizens can apply for a driving license.
In short, senior citizens can apply for a license in any state, whether it be for a renewal, a reinstatement, or a brand-new driving license. Regulations vary by state in terms of what documentation and testing is necessary. But seniors can legally drive as long as they are safely able.
For years, there have been controversies about whether drivers should be retested as they age. While there has been some discussion of mandating road-testing for senior citizens, only one state, Illinois, currently requires an on-road driving test beginning from age 75. In most states, there are special considerations for senior drivers. But senior citizens may apply for a driving license in any state.
I have consulted multiple sources including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and multiple state Departments of Motor Vehicles to give you current guidelines on applying for or renewing a license as a senior citizen. Here, you will find information regarding driving safety for seniors and a state-by-state guide to license application processes.
Table of contents
Can Seniors Get a Driving License at Any Age?
Adults over age 65 who are licensed can continue driving, as long as they drive safely. License maintenance requirements vary by state. Seniors may also apply for reinstatement of a license or a brand-new license at any age. They must undergo the same written test, vision exam, and road test as younger drivers, but they are not required to get a learner’s permit.
Concerns for Senior Drivers
Some people are concerned that senior drivers are unable to drive safely. With aging often come changes that may impact driving ability: vision and hearing loss, slower reflexes, and reduced attention, to name a few. Medications may also affect driving safety. Drivers and their families worry about accidents and legal issues. This leads some to question whether senior citizens should be driving at all.
A major concern for many senior drivers, on the other hand, is the limitations giving up a driving license will place on their lives. For most people, driving means freedom and self-sufficiency. Driving is important not only for mobility, but also for pleasure and socialization. So while safety is a concern, maintaining a desired lifestyle is also a consideration.
Senior Driving Statistics
In some ways, statistics support the idea that driving is dangerous for seniors. Drivers over age 65 are 73% more likely to die in a car accident and 17 times more likely to die from injuries following an accident. Drivers over age 80 have the highest rate of fatal accidents per mile driven.
However, accidents among seniors have been declining in recent years. There was a 12% decrease in fatalities among drivers aged 70 or more from 1997 to 2019. At the same time, the number of senior drivers aged 70+ has increased from 73% to 83% of people in thfrom age group. Clearly, driving safety has been improving among senior drivers.
Seniors and their families can make decisions regarding their desire and willingness to continue driving. But it is important to know that each state allows for driver’s licenses for senior citizens.
A State-by-State Guide to License Requirements
While seniors may apply for a license in any state, each state has different requirements, and some have slightly different standards for senior drivers.
Requirements are no different for seniors than for other drivers. License renewal is necessary every 4 years, and there is no vision test.
All drivers renew their licenses every 5 years. Starting from age 69, drivers have to go in-person every time to renew, while younger drivers can use mail or web options. A vision exam is necessary.
Driving licenses expire at age 65. Starting then, drivers have to update every 5 years rather than every 12, and only in person. A vision exam is necessary each time.
Requirements remain the same for everyone: renewal every 8 years with an assessment of vision each time.
Licenses must be renewed every 5 years by all. Starting from age 70, drivers must travel in-person to renew, and will need a vision exam and written test. Anyone can ask the DMV to have a driver complete an on-road driving test if they are concerned about safety.
Starting from age 61, licenses must be renewed every 5 years rather than every 10. Drivers must also have an eye exam within 6 months if renewing by mail.
All driving licenses must be renewed every 8 years. Older drivers on fixed incomes may elect to apply for a less expensive 2-year license if desired.
There is no variation in requirements for seniors; license renewals for all ages must be done every 8 years.
District of Columbia
There is a unique requirement that seniors aged 70 and over must provide a medical certification stating they are safe to drive. They must also renew in person only.
Drivers of 80+ years must renew their licenses every 6 years rather than every 8 years. They must also have an eye exam each time. There is anonymous reporting for safety concerns, and drivers may have to undergo written or road testing if indicated.
License renewal is good for 8 years for all drivers. Those over age 64 must complete an assessment of vision with each renewal.
An assessment of vision is mandatory for all drivers at every license renewal. Drivers aged 72+ must renew every 2 years, while other drivers renew every 8 years.
Senior drivers over 64 must renew their driving licenses every 4 years. Others may elect an 8-year or 4-year license, but must choose a 4-year license if completing renewal by mail. A mail-in option is not available for those 70 and older.
Up to age 81, renewal is every 4 years. From ages 81-86, drivers have to update every 2 years, and annual driver’s license renewal begins at 87. Anyone over 75 is necessary to complete a vision exam with each renewal and must complete the process in-person.
From age 74, license renewal is modified to every 3 years rather than every 6, and from age 85 the requirement changes again, to 2-year renewals. Vision tests are required starting from age 75.
Eight-year renewal standards apply up to age 72. If you apply for a renewal from age 73, the license will expire in 7 years; from age 74, in 6 years; from age 75, in 5 years; and so forth until two-year licenses are issued starting from age 78. Iowa also issues restricted licenses.
Seniors must renew their driving licenses every 4 years rather than every 6 from age 65. Licenses may be issued with restrictions. Applicants may also be flagged for further assessment, including possibly road tests, if staff note a concern.
No additional requirements for senior drivers. All drivers renew every 4 years with vision screening each time.
From age 70 on, renewals are done in-person only so that a vision exam can be completed, but renewals for all ages continue on a 4-year schedule.
Licenses expire after 4 years rather than 6, for seniors 65 and older. Vision exam is mandatory at every other renewal starting from age 40; from age 62, a vision test is necessary at every renewal. All license renewals must be done in-person from age 62.
All drivers’ licenses require renewal every 8 years, with vision testing completed every time beginning from age 40.
All licenses are good for 5 years. Starting from age 75, vision screening must be done at every renewal, and it must be completed in-person.
There are no varied standards based on age. Safety concerns for drivers of any age may be reported and investigated by the office of the Secretary of State.
The state has the same standards across the board for all drivers, including 4-year renewals and vision screenings each time.
All drivers renew every 4-8 years per personal preference, with no vision testing required. Drivers of any age may be reported for safety concerns and may have to provide a physician’s statement to continue driving.
The state requires drivers 70+ to renew their licenses every 3 years rather than every 6 years, which is the standard for younger drivers. Vision testing is completed with every renewal for all drivers.
Driving licenses expire every 12 years or on your 75th birthday, whichever is earlier. After age 75, drivers have to update driving licenses every 4 years.
All licenses must be renewed in-person beginning from age 72. Staff are instructed to observe for mental or physical issues that may affect driving and can decide if further assessment is needed.
Renewal by mail is only allowed with a doctor’s note and proof of vision screening after age 71. Staff may require a written or road-driving test for any suspected impairments.
Prior to July 2011, the state required drivers over age 75 to take an on-road driving test. That statute is no longer in place. There are now no specific provisions for senior drivers.
There are no varied standards for senior drivers. Doctors are required to report certain health conditions, and anyone may report a safety concern for review.
From age 67, drivers may only select a 4-year license rather than a 4- or 8-year license. Starting from age 75, drivers have to update licenses annually.
There are no special age-based standards. Any driver of any age can be reevaluated via written or road test if a concern is reported, and restricted licenses may be issued.
Drivers aged 66 and older must renew their licenses every 5 years rather than every 8 years. Drivers who may be unsafe can be reported and referred for medical or driving evaluation.
Starting at 78, drivers have to update their licenses every 4 years rather than every 6 years. All renewals must be done in-person starting at the age of 70.
Standard licenses expire after 8 years. Seniors aged 65 and older must renew theirs every 4 years. Restrictions may be placed in some cases for medical conditions.
There are no specific provisions based on the age of the driver. A “request for action” may be placed if someone is concerned about a driver’s safety, and the claim will be investigated.
Vision screening occurs beginning from age 50 at every in-person renewal. A license is good for 8 years for all drivers.
Senior citizens do not have any special requirements. The state completes random audits on some drivers each month, requesting medical and vision assessments before license renewal. This applies to drivers of all ages.
From age 75, the renewal interval changes from every 5 years to every 2 years. Vision testing is done at every renewal for all drivers.
Everyone must renew driving licenses every 8 years. As of 2020, all drivers must complete an assessment of vision at each renewal.
There are no particular provisions for senior citizens. There is a reporting program in place for concerns about any and all unsafe drivers.
All drivers have to update their licenses every 8 years. There are no changes in requirements for senior drivers.
From age 79, senior citizens must complete license renewals in-person and participate in an assessment of vision. From age 85, renewal intervals change from 6 years to 2 years.
Renewals occur every 8 years regardless of age. Vision exams are required for renewal beginning from age 65.
There are no special requirements for older drivers. All driving license renewals occur every 4 years.
License renewal intervals decrease from 8 years to 5 years starting from age 75. At that time, drivers must also complete all renewals in-person and complete a vision exam each time.
As of 1/1/2022, all drivers will be required to renew every 8 years. Drivers must complete all renewals in-person from age 65.
There are no special conditions for senior drivers. All drivers have to update their licenses every 5 years.
All licenses must be renewed every 8 years, regardless of the driver’s age. Doctors may report medical conditions that may prohibit driving. In this case, the license is canceled and the driver must make an appeal to reviewers.
The renewal interval for driver’s licenses is 10 years, with no special provisions based on age.
Check your state requirements to determine if any changes are needed as you age.
About THE AUTHOR
With multiple family members currently in senior living facilities, David is in the trenches every week, learning the ins and outs of nursing homes, assisted living, memory care, and general senior living.Read more about David Bolton
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