Senior Drivers in Tennessee
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 Tennessee Department of Revenue wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
License Renewal For Senior Drivers
Tennessee drivers do not have any age limit, after which they are expected to renew more frequently. Drivers can renew their license in person at a local DOR office or online. When renewing online, make sure you print the final page of the online application which will serve as proof of renewal.
In addition to taking a vision test (see below), you may be asked to take a written knowledge and driving test as well if your license has been expired for more than 5 years. In preparation for this, you can review the Tennessee Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. A photo will be taken and a new license issued. For license-related queries, you can call (866) 849-3548.
The Vision Test
Most senior drivers in Tennessee 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 DOR. 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 DoR.
The Tennessee DOR’s vision standard is 20/40 in each eye. If glasses are used to achieve this vision, the same must be used for driving also. If you do not meet the standard you will be issued a medical report and referred to a licensed vision specialist. Please note the following if you are referred to a vision specialist.
When you return to the DoR for another vision test, your completed vision report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent DoR vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
At the time of license renewal, you will be asked about the presence of medical conditions which might interfere with driving like blackout spells, diabetic shocks, seizures, etc. If you do have a condition, then a medical report needs to be submitted certifying your safety as a driver. If you have had seizures in the past, then you must be seizure-free for at least 6 months before resuming driving.
The DOR Reexamination
A DoR 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 DoR 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. A driver who is felt to be unsafe should be reported to the DoR via mail with all details of the driver and the person reporting it. The mail should be sent to:
Tennessee Department of Safety Driver Improvement Section 1150 Foster Ave. Nashville, TN 37210
The reexamination involves the immediate evaluation of an individual by a DoR 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 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.