Aging Drivers and the Law

Car DrivingFor better or for worse, our current culture is very car-dependant; in many places, cars are the only convenient link to the outside world. Unfortunately, as people age, driving can become more difficult and more dangerous. The elderly drive less, but have more crashes per mile than younger drivers. This is partially because elderly individuals are more likely to be affected by poor eyesight, chronic disease, and medications that might impair driving.

States vary widely on how they treat older drivers.  (For information each state's license renewal procedures, click here.) While no state will revoke a driver's license based only on the driver's age, some states put restrictions on license renewals for elderly drivers. Other states do not differentiate based on age, and still others have fewer requirements for older drivers.

The states that put restrictions on license renewals do so in a number of ways. Many have accelerated renewal periods for people over a certain age. These periods can vary widely. For example, Arizona requires everyone age 65 and older to renew their license every five years. Illinois has a 4-year renewal period, but the period shortens to two years if the driver is between the ages of 81 and 86, and then to 1 year if the driver is age 87 or older.

Some states require elderly drivers to take a vision test when renewing a license.

enior drivers in New York who renew their license in person will be asked to undergo a basic vision test to ensure they are able to safely operate a motor vehicle. If you wear eyeglasses, be sure to bring them with you to the DMV. In addition, if you haven't had your vision checked recently, or if you believe your eyesight has worsened, we recommend that you make an appointment with your vision specialist before visiting the DMV.

The New York DMV's vision standard is 20/40 in at least one eye, not less than 20/70 with a horizontal visual field of at least 140 degrees. If you are using telescopic lenses for correcting your vision, you must have used them for at least 60 days before getting your eyes tested again for licensing purposes. If you do not meet the standard, you will be issued form MV80L for eye test and referred to a licensed vision specialist. 

Another way states monitor older drivers is by not allowing drivers over a certain age to renew their licenses by mail. Finally, Illinois requires a road test if the driver is 75 years old or older.

While not all states put restrictions on license renewals, all state Departments of Motor Vehicles, Highway Safety, or Transportation have an office where a family member or doctor can make a referral about an unsafe driver. The state office will investigate the claim, and the driver may have to take a road test. Doctors are generally not required to report patients they feel are unsafe. In California, however, doctors must report demented patients and in California and a few other states doctors must report patients with epilepsy.

For information on state license renewal procedures, go to: 

Consider not only your safety but the safety of others.


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Questions? Contact us at Brian A. Raphan, P.C.

Brian A. Raphan, P.C.
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Phone: (212) 268-8200 (800) 278-2960