Seniors who hold valid drivers license credentials are often subject to regulations and stipulations that do not apply to other, younger drivers. Although every state’s DMV is equally charged with securing and protecting driver safety, each state pursues that goal differently. As a result, DMV rules and policies vary widely by state, particularly in regard to senior drivers. For example, seniors seeking to renew drivers license credentials are required to retake the vision exam each time beginning at age 40 in some states, but not until age 70 in others. In most states, renewals and other license and registration services can be accessed and processed online via the DMV website. Some driver services are eligible for online processing, but the services differ by state, applicant age and task.
Seniors may apply for drivers licenses using the same processes as younger drivers, and are held to equivalent standards in regard to mandatory prerequisites, such as drivers education courses, practice driving hours and drivers exams. States with defined “older adult” ages may issue licenses to older adults that are valid for shorter terms than those issued to younger drivers. A few states also require mature drivers to answer questions about their medical conditions and/or medications, which may interfere with their ability to drive safely. In some states, special programs assist senior drivers in transitioning to the new rules and regulations that begin to apply as they age.
Motorcycle licenses, like standard drivers licenses, may be applied for by seniors under the same rules and regulations that apply to other drivers. Seniors are expected to complete the same prerequisites and DMV exams, including a written drivers test and a vision exam, to receive their motorcycle licenses. It is also recommended that seniors complete additional safety courses or screenings to ensure their capacity and fitness to operate a motorcycle.
A CDL drivers license can be obtained by seniors who meet certain eligibility requirements and who pass a commercial driving exam. CDL license requirements also include payment of a designated fee. Commercial driving is a career path for many Americans, and it is open to most applicants 18 years of age or older, making it a job consideration for any elderly citizen.
Senior drivers may qualify for “retired status registrations.” Retired status car registrations are open to applicants who meet baseline income and working requirements and are seeking to register legally maintained and insured passenger vehicles. Under these and similar programs, seniors may be able to register single, personal-use vehicles for little or no cost.
Traffic tickets come in several types, each of which has different implications for senior drivers. “Correctable violation” traffic citations document vehicle equipment violations, such as broken lights, failure to maintain and provide – upon request – critical documentation such as a license, registration or vehicle insurance. They can be resolved by correcting the problem and submitting proof of the correction to the proper authorities, including police officers, DMV offices or court clerks, in keeping with the nature of the violation.
Parking tickets are typically issued by individual parking agencies and may be contested. Whether paid or contested, parking tickets must be resolved before a driver will be able to renew his or her vehicle registration.
Traffic violations are issued by police officers in response to the failure to comply with – or flagrant disregard for – basic traffic rules; for example, failing to stop at a red light or running a STOP sign. These tickets often involve traffic court appearances. Serious offenses, such as driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) may carry serious consequences, including heavy fines or even arrests.
Driving authorities and seniors’ organizations frequently regard traffic tickets as signs that mature drivers may need to make changes to their driving habits, but not necessarily as evidence that it is time for a license to be surrendered. Changes to a senior’s vision aids (e.g. glasses or contacts), adjustments to his or her primary vehicle, or the alteration of common habits (i.e.: choosing to drive only during daylight hours) may eliminate barriers or implement new supports that allow mature drivers to resume driving safely and avoid further traffic tickets. Seniors receiving regular traffic tickets are encouraged to seek out assistance from their physicians, trusted family members, DMV representatives and senior organizations to reassess their needs, skills and challenges related to driving. Numerous resources exist to help mature drivers adjust their choices and equipment as they age to facilitate continued safe driving practices.