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Hodgepodge of older driving rules across nation
Question of the Day
A 50-state look at the varying rules across the nation governing drivers’ licenses for older adults. ___
ALABAMA: Licenses are renewed every four years for all drivers, with no additional requirements for older drivers.
A legislative committee considered older driver safety in 2003 and decided not to recommend any changes, saying young drivers cause far more accidents.
ALASKA: Licenses are renewed every five years, but starting at age 69 people may not renew by mail.
ARIZONA: Licenses expire on the 65th birthday, and until then drivers only need new photos every 12 years _ making Arizona unique in how long a license can last. Starting at 65, drivers must renew every five years, with a vision test each time. At age 70, renewal can no longer be done by mail.
In 1995, Arizona started issuing licenses that were good until age 60. Legislation in 1999 expanded the expiration date to age 65. In an email, the Arizona Department of Transportation said the change reflected “a more realistic view of a capable driving age,” that also saved money on renewals.
ARKANSAS: Licenses are renewed every four years for all drivers, with no additional requirements for older drivers and no legislative attempts to add any.
CALIFORNIA: Licenses are renewed every five years, and until age 70 drivers may automatically be granted two five-year renewals by mail or online. Starting at 70, drivers must renew in person, taking a written test and eye exam.
At any age, a road test may be administered if a Department of Motor Vehicles employee believes there’s a reason, or if a doctor, police office, relative or even a neighbor requests one, said DMV spokesman Armando Botello. State law allows confidential reporting of a possibly unsafe driver, and California is one of the few states to require that doctors report certain medical conditions that could impact driving ability.
COLORADO: Licenses are renewed every 10 years until age 61, when drivers must begin renewing them every five years. Starting at age 66, there’s another restriction, as drivers can renew by mail only with a doctor’s or optometrist’s certification that they had passed an eye exam within six months.
CONNECTICUT: Standard license renewal is every six years, with no safety-related policies for older drivers.
However, there is an option for seniors on fixed budgets to seek a cheaper two-year license.
DELAWARE: Standard license renewal is every eight years, with no extra requirements for older drivers.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Standard license renewal is every eight years. Starting at age 70, drivers must renew in person and bring a doctor’s certification that they’re medically fit to drive.
FLORIDA: People 80 and older must renew their license every six years, compared with every eight years for younger people. Also, people 80 and older must pass an eye exam with every renewal.
Florida also allows confidential reporting of a possibly unsafe driver by anyone _ doctor, law enforcement, relative or bystander. Officials may ask those drivers to submit medical reports from their doctor or to undergo testing at a driver license office.
GEORGIA: People 59 and older must renew their license every five years, instead of every eight. Also, anyone 64 and older must pass an eye exam with every renewal, a requirement that began in 2005.
HAWAII: People 72 and older must renew their license every two years, compared with the standard eight years.
That’s been the age since 1997, when the two-year renewal was raised from age 65.
IDAHO: Starting at age 64, drivers must renew their license every four years compared with every eight years for younger drivers. Starting at age 69, they must renew in person at the county sheriff’s office and pass an eye exam.
ILLINOIS: At age 75, drivers must take a road test and eye exam to renew a license. At age 81, drivers must renew every two years instead of every four _ and at age 87, they must start renewing annually.
Prior to 1990, testing at renewal was required starting at age 69. In raising the age, the state cited data showing crash rates began increasing when drivers reached 75.
INDIANA: At age 75, drivers must renew a license every three years compared with every six years for younger drivers. At age 85, drivers must begin renewing every two years.
Last year, a state senator proposed annual driving tests beginning at age 85, but the bill never made it out of committee.
IOWA: At age 70, drivers must renew a license every two years compared with every five years for most drivers. The state may grant one-year licenses to drivers with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease or other progressive health conditions. It also issues licenses with such restrictions as driving only during the day or within a certain distance from home.
All renewals are done in person with a vision test.
KANSAS: Starting at age 65, drivers must renew a license every four years instead of every six. Everyone must pass a vision test or provide proof of an eye exam.
The state’s licensing examiners have the authority to add restrictions, such as allowing only daytime driving, limiting the distance driven from home, or banning freeway driving. The examiners can flag an application for further review or require a road test if they spot a potential problem and depending on how applicants answer questions about medical fitness to drive, said Jeannine Koranda, spokesman for the state Department of Revenue.
KENTUCKY: All drivers renew their licenses every four years, with no older age requirements.
Last year, the state legislature killed a proposal to require drivers 80 and older to get a doctor’s approval for license renewals.
LOUISIANA: All drivers renew their licenses every four years, but starting at age 70 they must renew in person rather than by mail or online.
MAINE: Starting at age 65, drivers must renew a license every four years instead of every six years. A vision test is required at the first renewal after a driver turns 40, and at every second renewal until age 62. After that, an eye exam is required at every renewal.
Citizens and doctors may report potentially unsafe drivers for examination by a medical review board.
MARYLAND: Starting Oct. 1, all new licenses will last for eight years instead of five, regardless of age. However, an eye exam is required starting at age 40 for every renewal.
The Motor Vehicle Administration said lengthening the renewal period would save the state millions of dollars.
MASSACHUSETTS: Drivers licenses last for five years, but starting at age 75 drivers must renew them in person and either pass an eye exam or present proof of recent vision screening.
The in-person renewals were signed into law in 2010, sparked by a series of accidents involving older drivers including one when an 88-year-old driver struck and killed a 4-year-old crossing a suburban Boston street.
MICHIGAN: Licenses last for four years for everyone, with no older age requirements.
Anyone may report a potentially unsafe driver to the Secretary of State’s office, and authorities may require that person to pass driving, vision or other tests. The department receives about 300 such requests a month _ mostly from law enforcement, followed by family members _ but doesn’t track them by age.
MINNESOTA: Licenses last for four years for everyone, with no older age requirements.
MISSISSIPPI: Licenses can last up to eight years for everyone, with no older age requirements.
Anyone can write the Department of Public Safety to report a potentially unsafe driver. The target of the complaint then gets 10 days to schedule a hearing, and if medical reasons are cited, the department seeks a report from the person’s physician.
MISSOURI: Starting at age 70, drivers must renew a license every three years, compared with every six years for adults ages 21 to 69.
State law allows doctors, law enforcement, social workers, therapists and immediate family members to report a potentially unsafe driver to the Department of Revenue, which can investigate and require testing or license restrictions. Reporting is confidential.
MONTANA: Drivers over age 75, drivers must renew their licenses every four years, instead of every eight years for drivers 21 to 75.
Prior to 1995, all ages renewed every four years.
NEBRASKA: Renewals are required every five years, but starting at age 72 drivers must renew in person. Examiners are trained to look for signs that a driver’s physical or cognitive skills are impaired and decide whether they require any type of driver’s test.
Law enforcement or family members may report someone as a potentially unsafe driver. If that happens, drivers are required to see a physician and eye doctor and then report for a driving test.
NEVADA: Renewals are required every four years. Starting at age 71, drivers cannot renew by mail unless they include a doctor’s note saying they’re physically fit to drive plus a vision-screening report.
Regardless of age, all drivers must renew in person every eight years, receiving an eye exam, and staff can require anyone to take a written or road test if they suspect mental or physical impairments that may affect driving.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Renewals are required every five years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
Last year, New Hampshire stopped requiring drivers 75 and older to take a road test. Repeal of that law was prompted by an 86-year-old lawmaker who argued the road-test requirement was discriminatory and based on the false premise that elderly drivers are dangerous.
NEW JERSEY: Licenses are renewed every four years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
All drivers are supposed to have their vision tested every 10 years, but the Motor Vehicle Commission concedes that program has never been fully implemented. Currently, it is piloting a program with eye-care professionals that would allow drivers to mail results of an exam to the agency.
Doctors are required to report certain health conditions to the licensing agency, but other people also can report possibly unsafe drivers of any age for a review.
NEW MEXICO: Drivers have an option of getting driver’s licenses that last for four or eight years until they reach age 67, when they can get only a four-year license. Starting at age 75, drivers must renew annually although it’s free. Drivers of any age must take a vision test with each renewal.
In 2011, the legislature turned away a proposal to test older drivers’ reflex and reaction times starting at age 75, and to require every-six-months renewals for people 90 and older.
NEW YORK: Licenses last eight years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
The Department of Motor Vehicles can re-evaluate a driver of any age based on a specific reason, such as a driving incident or action reported by a doctor, police officer or observer. It also can restrict licenses to such things as daylight driving only.
NORTH CAROLINA: Starting at age 66, drivers must renew their licenses every five years instead of every eight.
Doctors, family members and law enforcement may report potentially unsafe drivers of any age to the Department of Motor Vehicles’ medical evaluation program. The DMV could revoke licenses, require periodic medical reports, or restrict licenses to such things as trips only to and from work or the doctor, or daylight driving only.
NORTH DAKOTA: Licenses last six years until age 78, when they must be renewed every four years.
OHIO: Licenses last four years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
The state operates a web site _ http://www.dmv.com/oh/ohio/senior-drivers _ that explains some requirements older drivers may face if they fail standard vision tests or report certain health conditions.
OKLAHOMA: Licenses are renewed every four years, with no special provisions for any age.
Licenses are based on a person’s driving and being able to pass a written and vision test, and “that’s for someone who’s 16 or 90,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph.
People can file what’s called a “request for action” with the Department of Public Safety if they’re concerned about a driver’s safety, and the person has 60 days to come in for a hearing so officials can evaluate next steps.
OREGON: Licenses are renewed every eight years. Starting at age 50, drivers must undergo vision screening with every renewal.
Oregon requires certain health care providers to report “severe and uncontrollable” impairments that may affect driving safety, regardless of age. The state also accepts voluntary reports of possibly unsafe drivers. Those people have 60 days to provide updated medical information or undergo certain testing, before license officials determine next steps.
As a result of 2011 legislation, Oregon created a committee that assessed the need for age-based license renewals or testing, and decided there wasn’t evidence that implementing such restrictions would reduce crashes, said Bill Merrill, a manager with the state’s Driver & Motor Vehicle Services. Instead, it recommended some changes to how medically at-risk drivers are reported, such as requiring more health providers to get involved, he said.
PENNSYLVANIA: Licenses are renewed every four years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
The state Department of Transportation essentially audits drivers. About 1,900 randomly chosen drivers a month, all over age 45, are required to get a physical from their own doctor and an eye exam, either from licensing officials or an eye doctor, before they can renew a license. It also fields about 22,000 reports a year of possibly unsafe drivers from health providers, family members and others.
RHODE ISLAND: Starting at age 75, drivers must renew their licenses every two years instead of every five. Everyone, regardless of age, has the option of renewing online every other time.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Starting at age 65, drivers must renew licenses every five years instead of every 10. Also, a vision test is required for those 65 and older.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Licenses are renewed every five years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
Anyone can report a possibly unsafe driver for testing. State licensing program director Cindy Gerber said family members rarely submit such requests as it’s sensitive to turn in a parent or grandparent, but might ask a police officer to file a request for them.
TENNESSEE: Licenses are renewed every five years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
A bill introduced in 2006 to require vision and driving tests for seniors never advanced in the legislature.
TEXAS: Starting at age 79, drivers must renew their licenses in person, rather than by mail or online, and get a vision test. Starting at age 85, drivers must renew their licenses every two years instead of every six.
Those requirements began in 2007, a result of “Katie’s law,” after a 2006 Dallas-area crash in which a 90-year-old driver ran a stoplight and killed a 17-year-old who was driving to school.
UTAH: Licenses are renewed every five years regardless of age. Starting at age 65, drivers must get an eye exam with each renewal.
Starting in 2008, the state allowed confidential reporting of possibly unsafe drivers of any age, although it was designed for family members worried about backlash if they turned in a parent or grandparent. Prior to that law, drivers could find out who reported them. Chris Caras of Utah’s Department of Public Safety said drivers can ask to be re-tested until they pass as long as they’re improving _ and frequently may have their license restricted to driving at certain times or certain places rather than having it revoked.
VERMONT: Licenses are renewed every four years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
VIRGINIA: Licenses are renewed every eight years. Starting at age 80, drivers must renew in person and pass an eye test or present proof of a recent vision exam.
WASHINGTON: Licenses are renewed every five years. Starting at age 65, drivers must renew in person instead of online.
In-person renewals, which all ages must do every second renewal, allow licensing officials to look for signs of health conditions that could affect driving ability, said Brad Benfield, spokesman for the state Department of Licensing.
WEST VIRGINIA: Licenses are renewed every five years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
WISCONSIN: Licenses are renewed every eight years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
If a doctor reports to the state Department of Transportation that a person shouldn’t drive, the license is automatically canceled and the person can appeal to a medical review board. Police and other citizens also can report possibly unsafe drivers, prompting licensing officials to require that the person visit a physician and may require a road test. If licensing officials determine there’s a problem, they may revoke the license or add restrictions such as driving only within 15 miles of home or only during daylight.
WYOMING: Licenses are renewed every four years, with no special provisions for older drivers.
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