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 Rhode Island Division 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

Rhode Island drivers who are 68 years of age or older at the time their current driver license expires can only renew their license for 2 years. Drivers are generally required to renew their license in person at a local DMV office. You will be issued a temporary license valid for 60 days, by which time; your license will be mailed to you.

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 Rhode Island Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. For license-related queries, you can call the DMV at (401) 462-5808.

The Vision Test

Most senior drivers in Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island DMV’s vision standard is 20/40 in at least one eye with or without correction with a horizontal field vision of 115 degrees. If you are blind in one eye, then your good eye must have a visual field of 75 degrees temporally and 40 degrees nasally. While color vision is not considered for restriction, double vision would be and license would be rejected. If you do not meet the standard you will be referred to a licensed vision specialist.

When you return to the DMV for another vision test, your vision 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 with a disability can ask for an oral examination to pass the license testing. Hearing impaired drivers can ask for interpreter services from the State of Rhode Island Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Drivers need to constantly check their physical health and be on alert if they are on medications which can cause drowsiness.

Motorists with a seizure history have to be seizure-free for 18 months and can only resume driving after a medical supervisor certifies that you are a safe driver. Periodic medical checkups may be recommended by the Medical Advisory Board once you resume driving.

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. Incompetent drivers may be reported to the DMV by citizens by calling (401) 462-0802. Physicians can report of their doubts on a driver’s abilities by writing to:

Administrative Adjunction Court
Office of Operator Control
345 Harris Ave.
Providence, RI 02909

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 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 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.
Last updated on Thursday, March 7 2019.