A lot of older drivers get behind the wheel every day.
The Automobile Association of America reports that by 2030, more than 70 million people in the U.S. will be 65 or older—and up to 90 percent of them will have a driver’s license.
While no U.S. states require drivers to give up their car keys at a certain age, state licensing agencies do have regulations to keep older drivers on the road safely. That includes measures to determine whether drivers can still renew their licenses at all.
So what do you need to know when yours is about to expire?
Depending on where you live, your age and your driving skills, renewing your license can be simple or more complex. License-renewal procedures vary by state.
But the majority of states require proof of adequate vision at renewal (or every other renewal) — some for all drivers, and some for drivers at various ages, including starting at age 40 in Maryland, age 62 in Maine, and age 80 in Florida, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
“It makes sense that states are testing drivers to make sure they can demonstrate the ability to drive safely,” says William Van Tassel, AAA’s manager of driver training programs. “If you can’t see, you can’t drive."
Many states also require in-person visits to renew at older ages, including California, Idaho and North Dakota, which don't allow online or mail-in license renewal starting at age 70; and Kansas and Ohio, which require in-person renewal at 65 and older.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has studied how license-renewal policies influence accidents or fatalities, says Jessica Cicchino, IIHS’ vice president of research. The impact is not always what people might expect.
“The reports we’ve seen that are associated with lower death rates for older people require them to come in person or require proof of vision, and those have only shown to be effective for people who are 85 and older,” she says.
One state goes even further to assess older drivers. In Illinois, all renewing drivers get their vision tested, and the state requires everyone to take a written exam every eight years unless your record is free of traffic convictions.
Illinois is also the only state that requires older drivers 75 and up to pass a road test to renew their license.