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 New York Department 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

New York drivers, at the time their current driver license expires, can renew their license in person at a local DMV office, by mail, or online. In addition to taking a vision test (see below), you may in certain situations be asked to take a written knowledge test as well. You can renew your license if you have passed this test within the last 2 years.

In preparation for this, you can review the New York Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. The New York DMV has a list of toll-free numbers to assist you with queries.

If you are out of state, renewal by mail is also an option. To do so, you may send over a completed Eye Test Report by a physician in another state.

The Vision Test

Most senior drivers in New York 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 New York DMV’s vision standard is 20/40 in at least one eye, not less than 20/70 with a horizontal visual field of at least 140 degrees. If you are using telescopic lenses for correcting your vision, you must have used them for at least 60 days before getting your eyes tested again for licensing purposes. If you do not meet the standard, you will be issued form MV80L for eye test and referred to a licensed vision specialist. Please note the following if you are referred to a vision specialist:

  • 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 Eye Test Report, completed by the vision specialist, back to your local DMV office.
  • The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the New York Department of Motor Vehicles will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist’s recommendations before returning to the DMV.

When you return to the DMV for another vision test, your Eye Test 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).

Medical Examination

Drivers must keep the DMV informed of their medical conditions. A Physician Statement may need to be filled out to prove that you are a safe driver. Loss of a body part should be reported using a Physician’s Statement for Medical Review Unit. The DMV lists possible medical conditions that can interfere with driving and how to improve driving abilities in drivers with these conditions.

Drivers with seizure history must be seizure-free for at least 1 year before resuming driving. Medical documentation of the same is also required. If seizures do occur during this 1 year, a doctor statement verifying that it will not interfere with your driving should be submitted. If you require special testing accommodations due to your disability, these can be conveyed to the DMV.

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. Unsafe drivers may be reported to the DMV by either a physician during a routine examination or by other citizens. Forms filled by citizens reporting unsafe drivers must be signed by a notary and sent to:

Driver Improvement Bureau
NYS Department of Motor Vehicles
6 Empire State Plaza
Room 220A
Albany, NY, 12228

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. Being involved in 3 accidents over a period of 6 months can call for a re-examination. Drivers above 65 with 3 accidents over a period of 6 to 9 months will be required to answer a questionnaire.

The score on this will decide if they need to be reexamined. The reexamination involves the immediate evaluation of an individual by a DMV approved hearing 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 a 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.

Drivers who are hard of hearing will have the letters R.F printed on their license, indicating that they are required to drive with a hearing aid and/or your vehicle must have a full-view mirror.

Last updated on Thursday, March 7 2019.