Driving Exams Overview

There are three drivers test requirements that must be passed for a senior to obtain his or her first drivers license. The first is a drivers license test consisting of a functional evaluation of a driver’s ability to handle his or her vehicle on the road. The second is a written drivers test, which focuses on the driver’s understanding of and familiarity with the information contained in the state’s driver’s handbook. The third test is a vision exam to confirm that an applicant can see clearly enough, with or without aids, to safely operate a motor vehicle. Older drivers may be required to retake the vision portion of these driving exams each time they renew their licenses after reaching a state’s designated “older adult” cutoff. Rarely, seniors may be required to retake the road skills test, as well. Understanding what each exam entails can prepare senior drivers to pass these tests without undue stress and promote positive results. Continue on to the below sections to read more about senior DMV driving tests.

Written Driving Tests for Seniors

The written or “knowledge” portion of a DMV drivers test only needs to be taken the first time a potential driver applies for a license. This section of the drivers ed test asks questions about the material contained in the driver’s handbook an applicant received with his or her learners permit. The handbook and the questions in this section of the driving test address common rules and regulations, the applicant’s ability to correctly identify and interpret road signs and signals and basic safety and security concerns associated with operating a vehicle. These tests are always administered at a DMV office by a qualified representative. Drivers exam options can be administered verbally or in numerous written languages. Applicants that wish to take the written drivers exam in a language other than English or with the assistance of an interpreter can request that accommodation when scheduling their appointments to take the test. Learn more about the written drivers test in our free, informative guide.

Road Skills Tests for Seniors

The road test section of the drivers license exam provides an applicant with an opportunity to demonstrate his or her functional competency to operate a motor vehicle. They may not be available at all DMV locations. Driving exams are always required when a potential driver is learning to apply for a drivers license for the first time. A handful of states reserve the right to require that older drivers retake this portion of the exam when seeking to renew driver licenses if they have reached or surpassed a designated “older adult” age. Refusal to comply can result in a drivers license suspension.

The functional portion of the drivers license test requires potential drivers to bring their learners permits, a road-worthy vehicle that is legally registered and properly insured, and a money to cover the testing fee(s), which vary by state and, sometimes, municipality. The drivers test is administered by a qualified DMV representative. He or she will confirm that all state-mandated driver test prerequisites (drivers education courses and the minimum number of practice driving hours) have been met before allowing the test to begin. Road DMV tests look for applicants’ capacities to safely perform basic driving maneuvers. These include following basic traffic laws and signage, the use of turn signals and mirrors, speed limit compliance and parking. Most importantly, DMV test personnel seek to confirm during a driving exam that an applicant can safely control his or her vehicle at all times and is aware of other drivers, pedestrians and potential hazards. Individuals who do not pass the test on the first try will have the opportunity to review the reasons for their failure with the DMV representative. They may then be required to observe a brief waiting period before being allowed to retest.

Vision Screenings for Seniors

Seniors must pass the vision screening portion of the DMV drivers test when applying for their first drivers licenses or renewing an existing license. Potential drivers must be able to demonstrate 20/40 vision to earn or renew their drivers licenses. This driver test score may be reached with or without aids, such as glasses or contacts. If aids are used, their use will be clearly noted on the applicant’s license. He or she will then be required to use those aids at all times while driving.

The vision section of a drivers ed test is most commonly conducted at the DMV using a standard Snellen chart. Snellen charts for drive tests contain five lines of letters. The letters are randomly arranged and each line decreases in size. Driving test options are more advanced in some states where vision testing may be available through equipment such as Optec 1000 Vision Testers. States are also increasingly allowing applicants to have their vision tested by a qualified physician, ophthalmologist or optometrist. Drivers license exam vision screenings may be skipped if these qualified, offsite exam results are conducted within an eligible window of time and are submitted with a potential driver’s application. In addition to being a mandatory part of a potential driver’s first driving exam, vision screenings are commonly required for older drivers seeking to renew a drivers license. Beginning at age 40, many states start requiring all drivers to redocument their visual acuity to qualify for a drivers license renewal. Learn more about DMV vision requirements in our comprehensive guide.



What Driving Services Are Available for Seniors?

Several driving services are available for seniors across the country. Seniors are able to obtain or renew driver’s licenses and car registrations as long as they are able to meet the requirements established by each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Learn more about the guidelines that concern driving services for seniors by downloading our guide.


How Can Seniors Receive Driving Services?

Driving services are offered in various ways for seniors. Mature drivers can obtain these services in person, by mail or by going online. To learn more about which services you can receive online, download our guide now.