April 2014

Initial licensing procedures vary substantially in the United States. Renewal procedures, however, are not as varied. Generally, an applicant's driving record is checked to ensure there are no suspensions or revocations and, if not, the person pays a renewal fee and gets a new license. In addition, most states require renewal applicants to appear in person and to pass a vision test.

There are, however, two aspects of license renewal that vary significantly: the length of time between renewals and additional requirements that may be imposed on older drivers. Such requirements exist in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Renewal procedures for drivers older than a specified age — typically 65 or 70 — include accelerated renewal cycles that provide for shorter periods between renewals, a requirement to renew in person rather than electronically or by mail where remote renewal is permitted, and testing that is not routinely required of younger drivers (vision and road tests, for example).

If a person's continued fitness to drive is in doubt because of the person's appearance or demeanor at renewal, a history of crashes or violations, or reports by physicians, police or others, state licensing agencies may require renewal applicants to undergo physical or mental examinations or retake the standard licensing tests (vision, written and road). States typically have medical review boards composed of health care professionals who advise on licensing standards and on individual cases in which a person's ability to drive safely is in doubt.

After reviewing a person's fitness to drive, the licensing agency may allow the person to retain the license, refuse to renew the license, or suspend, revoke or restrict the license. Typical restrictions prohibit nighttime driving, require the vehicle to have additional mirrors, or limit driving to specified places or a limited radius from the driver's home. Where the renewal cycle is not shorter for older drivers, licensing agencies have the authority to shorten the renewal cycle for individual license holders if their condition warrants.

The following table provides the periods for which licenses can be renewed in each state and the District of Columbia, any accelerated renewal periods for older drivers, and other provisions applicable to older drivers.

  Special provisions for older drivers
State Length of regular renewal cycle Accelerated renewal Other provisions
Alabama 4 years none none
Alaska 5 years none mail renewal not available to people 69 and older and to people whose prior renewal was by mail
Arizona until age 651 5 years for people 65 and older people 70 and older may not renew by mail1
Arkansas 4 years none none
California 5 years none at age 70, mail renewal is prohibited; no more than two sequential mail renewals are permitted, regardless of age
Colorado 10 years 5 years for people 61 and older people 66 and older cannot renew electronically, but they can renew by mail if a licensed physician or optometrist certifies that they passed a vision exam given within the prior six months; no one may renew by mail or electronically whose prior renewal was by mail or electronic
Connecticut 6 years none that are safety related2 none that are safety related2
Delaware 8 years none none
District of Columbia 8 years none at age 70, or nearest renewal date thereafter, a vision test is required and a reaction test may be required; applicant must provide a statement from a practicing physician certifying the applicant to be physically and mentally competent to drive3
Florida 8 years 6 years for people 80 and older renewal applicants 80 and older must pass a vision test administered at any driver's license office or if applying by mail or electronically must pass a vision test administered by a licensed physician or optometrist4
Georgia 5 or 8 years 5 years for people 60 and older vision test for people 64 and older
Hawaii 8 years 2 years for people 72 and older none
Idaho 4 years drivers ages 21-62 have the choice of a 4- or 8-year license; drivers 63 and older will receive a 4-year license none
Illinois 4 years 2 years for drivers ages 81-86; 1 year for drivers 87 and older renewal applicants 75 and older must take a road test
Indiana 6 years 3 years for drivers 75 through 84; 2 years for drivers 85 and older mail or electronic renewal not available to people 75 and older and to people whose prior renewal was electronic or by mail
Iowa 5 through 8 years5 2 years for drivers 72 and older people 70 and older may not renew online
Kansas 6 years 4 years for drivers 65 and older none
Kentucky 4 years none none
Louisiana 4 years none mail renewal not available to people 70 and older and to people whose prior renewal was by mail
Maine 6 years 4 years for drivers 65 and older vision test required at first renewal after driver's 40th birthday and at every second renewal until age 62; thereafter, at every renewal
Maryland 8 years none vision test required at age 40 and older at every renewal6
Massachusetts 5 years none renewal applicants 75 and older must apply in person
Michigan 4 years none none
Minnesota 4 years none none that are safety related7
Mississippi 4 or 8 years, at the option of the driver none none
Missouri 6 years 3 years for drivers 70 and older and 21 and younger none
Montana 8 years, 4 years if by mail, or on 75th birthday, whichever occurs first8 4 years for drivers 75 and older none that are safety related8
Nebraska 5 years none people 72 and older may not renew electronically
Nevada 4 years; completing phase-in of 8-year cycle in 2018 4 years for drivers 65 and older none that are safety related9
New Hampshire 5 years none none
New Jersey 4 years none none
New Mexico 4 or 8 years at the option of the driver <67: 4 or 8 years at driver's option; 67+: 4 years or age 75, whichever occurs first; annually for drivers age 75 and older none
New York 8 years none none
North Carolina 8 years 5 years for drivers 66 and older none that are safety related10
North Dakota 6 years 4 years for people 78 and older none
Ohio 4 years none none
Oklahoma 4 years none none that are safety related11
Oregon 8 years none vision screening is required every 8 years for drivers 50 and older
Pennsylvania 4 years none none
Rhode Island 5 years 2 years for drivers 75 and older none
South Carolina 10 years 5 years for drivers 65 and older vision test required for people 65 and older
South Dakota 5 years none people 65 and older must submit a vision statement signed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist if applying online or by mail (effective 07/01/14)
Tennessee 5 years none none that are safety related12
Texas 6 years 2 years for drivers 85 and older mail or electronic renewal not available to people 79 and older
Utah 5 years none vision test required for people 65 and older
Vermont 4 years none none
Virginia 8 years 5 years for drivers 75 and older (effective 01/01/15) renewal applicants 75 and older must apply in person and pass department vision requirements or present a vision statement, no older than 90 days, from an optometrist or ophthalmologist (effective 01/01/15)
Washington 5 years none none
West Virginia 8 years (effective 06/26/14) none none
Wisconsin 8 years none none
Wyoming 4 years none none

1In Arizona, the license is valid until age 65. Any person 65 years and older who is renewing by mail must submit a vision test verification form, provided by the department, or verification of an examination of the applicant's eyesight. The vision test or examination must be conducted not more than 3 months before.

2In Connecticut, people 65 and older may choose a 2-year or 6-year renewal cycle. A personal appearance at renewal generally is required. Upon a showing of hardship, people 65 and older may renew by mail.

3The District of Columbia specifically states that an applicant shall not be required to retake the written or road test based solely on advanced age.

4Florida allows only two successive renewals may be made electronically or by mail, regardless of age.

5Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, and continuing through Dec. 31, 2018, Iowa will transition from a standard five-year license term to an eight-year license term. During this time, Iowa driver's licenses will be issued with a randomly assigned expiration date between five and eight years.

6Some states' licensing laws specifically prohibit licensing administrators from treating people differently solely by virtue of advanced age. Maryland law specifies that age alone is not grounds for reexamination of drivers; applicants for an initial license age 70 and older must provide proof of previous satisfactory operation of a vehicle or physician's certificate of fitness.

7Some states' licensing laws specifically prohibit licensing administrators from treating people differently solely by virtue of advanced age. Minnesota law specifies that age alone is not a justification for reexamination.

8Montana allows only two successive renewals may be made electronically or by mail, regardless of age.

9Some states' licensing laws specifically prohibit licensing administrators from treating people differently solely by virtue of advanced age. Nevada law specifies that age alone is not a justification for reexamination. In Nevada, applicants for mail renewal age 70 and older must include a medical report.

10In North Carolina, people 60 and older are not required to parallel park in the road test.

11In Oklahoma, the license fee is reduced for drivers 62-64 and is waived for drivers 65 and older. Mail renewal is available only if the preceding issuance or renewal was done in person by the applicant, regardless of age.

12In Tennessee, fees are reduced for drivers 60 and older and licenses issued to people 65 and older do not expire.