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 numerous factors that can affect our driving skills, and hinder our ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.

License Renewal For Senior Drivers

The Medical Affairs Branch of Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles does not place an age limit on drivers. Massachusetts drivers can renew their license for a period of 5 years either online every alternate renewal or in person anytime.

Once you receive a renewal notice, which will be 60 days before your current license expires, you can choose to renew online or in person. When renewing online, do it at least 7 days before the expiry date of your license. Alternatively, when renewing in person, which must be done once in 10 years, drivers are generally required to take a vision test (see below, and in certain situations be asked to take a written knowledge test as well.

In preparation for this process, you can review the Massachusetts Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal.

The Vision Test

All drivers in Massachusetts who renew their license in person will be asked to undergo a basic vision test to ensure they meet the vision standards set by the Massachusetts RMV to ensure they are able to safely operate a motor vehicle. If you wear eyeglasses, be sure to bring them with you to the RMV.

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 RMV. The Massachusetts RMV’s vision standards are elaborate and as follows:

  • Vision of at least 20/40, with or without lenses, and a horizontal vision of 120 degrees. A restriction stating that corrective lenses are used will be placed on the license.
  • Vision of between 20/50 and 20/70 and a horizontal field vision of 120 degrees will make you eligible for a license with a restriction for driving in “daylight only.”
  • The RMV also has guidelines pertaining to the use of bifocal lenses, as listed in their vision standards on their site.
  • Distinction between the colors amber, green, and red is mandatory.
  • Applicant having irresolvable diplopia will be denied a license.

This will provide you a license with and if you do not meet the standard you will be issued a Vision Certificate Examination form and referred to a licensed vision specialist. Please note the following if you are referred to a vision specialist:

  • The form taken to the vision specialist should not have been issued more than a year older than the date of testing. The vision specialist (a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist) will perform a full vision examination and assess whether your eyesight permits you to drive safely. Bring the report completed by the vision specialist, back to your local RMV office.
  • The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist’s recommendations before returning to the RMV

When you return to the RMV for another vision test, your report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent RMV vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).

Medical Examination

Massachusetts has a number of Medical Qualification Policy Statements to report possible common disease conditions to the RMV.

The RMV Reexamination

A RMV 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 RMV 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. If you feel a driver is unsafe or incompetent, you may report the same to the RMV by filling out a Request for Medical Evaluation form. You can either fax this to (617) 351-9223 or mail to:

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles
Medical Affairs Branch
P.O. Box 55889
Boston, MA 02205

The reexamination involves the immediate evaluation of an individual by a RMV authorized 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.

If you require special testing equipment, contact the RMV at (617) 351-4505 and provide information about yourself and the testing modification you are seeking. The RMV will contact you again and inform you of the time of your test.

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 Drivers 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 a poor vision, but others which may be age-related include cognitive skills like memory, coordination and flexibility. Contact (617) 351-9222 to report any medical condition that you think might hinder your driving ability.

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.
  • Some of the restrictions that could be placed on a senior driver’s license include:
    B: Corrective lenses.
    C: Mechanical aid.
    D: Prosthetic aid.
    E: Automatic Transmission.
    F: Outside mirror.
    H: Limit to daytime only.
    J: Restriction card must be carried.
    R: Bioptic telescopic lens.
    S: Proof of current blood sugar level.
Last updated on Thursday, March 7 2019.

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