Older Drivers and State Laws: A Few Things to Consider

MARCH 17, 2003 VOLUME 10, NUMBER 37

Twice in October 2002, Elder-Law Issues highlighted concerns of and about older drivers. (See What Can Be Done About Driving Skills As We Age? and Dealing With Impaired Driving Skills In Aging Family Members) This week and next we continue our examination of driving and aging. If you are concerned about the driving habits of an older family member or client, or want to know what is in your own future, here are some things you should know:

a. Older persons do not automatically lose their driver’s licenses. No state has an age-based revocation of driving privileges.

b. Road tests and vision exams are rarely required to maintain a driver’s license. Only drivers 75 or older living in Illinois or New Hampshire must take a road test to renew a driver’s license. However, your state department of motor vehicles may initiate a re-examination interview and road testing upon receiving a referral from family, friends, health care or other professionals who have concerns about an unsafe driver.

A vision test is required in Maine for first license renewals, at every second license renewal until 62, and thereafter at every renewal. In Oregon, vision screening is required every eight years for drivers 50 and above. Utah requires that drivers aged 65 or older take a vision test. Arizona requires a vision test verification form to have been completed within three months of a renewal by mail for those 65 or older.

c. Physicians are not required to report functional impairments in a driver—with two exceptions: 1. Physicians with demented patients in California. 2. Physicians who diagnose or treat patients with epilepsy in California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Although they may not be required to report impairments physicians are not ethically prohibited from reporting safety concerns.

d. Five states restrict driver’s license renewal by mail for older drivers. In Alaska, license renewal by mail is unavailable to drivers 69 or older. Arizona, California and Louisiana prohibit renewal by mail for drivers 70 and older. At 66, drivers in Colorado can no longer renew their licenses by mail.

e. 13 states have accelerated renewal periods for older drivers. Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico and Rhode Island have shorter renewal cycles for older drivers, though the cycles vary among those states. In Idaho drivers must renew their licenses every four years beginning at age 63 and no longer have the option of electing an eight-year cycle. In Illinois once a driver turns 81 she/he must renew every two years until 87. At 87 the Illinois license renewal is annual. Rhode Island drivers must renew every two years starting at age 70. At 69 Missouri drivers must renew every three years.

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