Driving and licensing laws for older drivers

By Tom Tennant on December 12th, 2010

Auto Insurance

Elderly drivers are often careful, thoughtful motorists. But they are also among the most dangerous, second only to teenagers. In fact, drivers age 65 and older represent 15 percent of all Americans killed on the road, according to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The reason this dichotomy exists is fairly intuitive: time catches up with us. As we age, our cognitive abilities diminish. Our memory fades and our reaction time slows. We can't see as well as we used to and it becomes harder to hear emergency vehicles approaching. We just aren't quite the alert drivers we once were.

More hoops for older drivers

For this reason, most states have stepped up licensing renewal requirements for older drivers. And car insurance companies, working alongside local governments and organizations like the AARP, are developing programs to help older drivers hone their skills and stay safe on the road.

If you are 65 and older and want to stay behind the wheel for as long as possible, make sure you understand your state's licensing requirements. Each state is different, and you don't want to get caught driving illegally. And make sure you are honest with yourself about your own abilities.

Regulations that apply to older drivers

Most modified regulations fall into one of three categories:

  • Shorter renewal periods: Many states with long renewal periods require older drivers to renew sooner. For example, Colorado's renewal cycle is 10 years, but drivers 61 and older must renew after 5 years. The shortest renewal cycle is in Illinois, where drivers 81 and up must renew every year.
  • In-person renewal: In Louisiana, you cannot renew electronically or by mail after you turn 70. You must renew in person. It's a trend that's growing in popularity since the provision gives agents the opportunity to personally assess a driver. If an agent deems a driver's fitness level below that required to safely operate a vehicle, the driver's license may be retained, renewal denied, or restrictions put in place.
  • Increased testing: More frequent vision and road tests may be required of older drivers. If you live in Maine, you must take a vision test every other renewal date after you turn 40, and then every renewal date once you reach your 62nd birthday.

Driving restrictions for older drivers

If a driver fails to meet any or all of the requirements above, he or she may be subject to license restriction, suspension or even revocation. Typical restrictions for older drivers with diminished skills include prohibited night time driving, restricted driving distances and vehicular modifications, like extra or enhanced mirrors.

Whatever your age, know yourself and your capabilities, and do what you need to do to keep the roads safe for all.


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