In addition to being a convenience and an enjoyable activity for many people, driving is also a symbol of one's independence. As we age, there are a numerous factors that can affect our driving skills, and hinder our ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The Illinois Secretary of State's Vehicle Services and Driver License Division wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
LICENSE RENEWAL FOR SENIOR DRIVERS
Illinois drivers can renew their licenses for 4 years between ages 69 and 80; up to the age of 86, they can renew for 2 years; after 87 years the license needs to be renewed annually. Illinois drivers who are under 74 years can opt for the Safe Driver Renewal. Drivers who are 75 years of age or older at the time their current driver license expires are generally required to renew their license in person at a local VSD office. All drivers have to take a vision test (see below). All drivers will be asked to take a written knowledge test every 8 years, unless they have no traffic violations. If your driving records indicate an accident, then you will need to pass a written and/or driving test. Drivers over 75 years have to take a road test at the time of renewal. In preparation for this, you can review the Illinois Drivers Handbook, popularly known as Illinois Rules of the Road and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. The Super Seniors Program also helps to improve driving skills of seniors. Senior drivers who are deaf and hard of hearing can call (888) 261-5280 for queries.
THE VISION TEST
All drivers in Illinois 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 VSD. 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 VSD.
The Illinois VSD's vision standard is 20/40 with or without correction. Drivers with vision ranging from 20/40 to 20/70 will only be permitted to drive during the day. If you do not meet the standard you may be referred to a licensed vision specialist.
When you return to the VSD for another vision test, your specialist report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent VSD vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if neccesary).
Drivers are expected to notify the Secretary of State of any medical condition that may interfere with driving within 10 days of being diagnosed. If deemed necessary, drivers will be required to submit a medical form, indicating their ability to drive safely. The license can have a sticker which states that you have an Emergency Medical Information Card with you.
THE VSD REEXAMINATION
A VSD reexamination is when a person's driving skills must be reevaluated based on one or more factors, including the driver's physical or mental condition, or driving record. A VSD reexamination may be recommended by a family member, physical or emergency medical technician, or peace officer. Other times, information in your license renewal application or on your driving record may prompt a reexamination.
The reexamination involves the immediate evaluation of an individual by a VSD approved officer. It consists of an interview, and may also involve a vision test, a written test, and/or a driving test. To prepare for the test, many older drivers choose to enroll in a driver's education program or driving school for seniors to brush up their skills. Following the reexamination, the hearing officer will decide whether any action should be taken regarding your driving privilege, such as restrictions, probation, suspension or revocation.
THE RESTRICTED DRIVER LICENSE
Sometimes, a physical or mental condition can impair a driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The most common of these conditions is poor vision, but others which may be age-related include cognitive skills like memory, coordination and flexibility.
In some circumstances, older drivers may have a restriction placed on their driver license. The types of restrictions vary, and are based on the results of your vision test, driving test, and the driving examiner's assessment. A restricted driver license is intended to ensure that you are driving within your abilities. Some of the most common license restrictions are those that:
- Require eyeglasses, corrective contact lenses, or bioptic telescopic lens to be worn at certain times.
- Permit driving from sunrise to sunset only, or prohibit driving during rush hour.
- Restrict the geographical area in which a person is permitted to drive, or prohibit freeway driving.
- Require special mechanical devices, or an additional side mirror on the vehicle.
- Require extra support in order to ensure a safe and correct driving position.