Senior Drivers in North Carolina
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 North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
Your official North Carolina driver’s license is issued for a period of 5 or 8 years depending on your age.
- Ages 18 to 65: 8 years
- Age 66 or older: 5 years
In addition to taking a vision test (see below), you may in certain situations be asked to take a written knowledge test as well. In preparation for this, you can review the North Carolina Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal.
The Vision Test
Most senior drivers in North Carolina 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 DMV.
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 DMV. The North Carolina DMV’s vision standard is 20/40, and if you do not meet the standard, you will be asked to contact a vision specialist and return with the report and prescribed glasses, if applicable.
When you return to the DMV for another vision test, your doctor’s report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent DMV vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
The DMV Reexamination
A DMV 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 DMV 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 DMV 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. Following the reexamination, the hearing officer will decide whether any action should be taken regarding your driving privileges, 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 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.