New Rules for Mature Drivers in Virginia on New Year’s Day

New Law Lowers Age from 80 to 75 for Mandatory In-Person License Renewal

Son drives senior mom weating seatbelts

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA ( December 23, 2014) – Stricter driver’s license-renewal rules for older drivers - including accelerated renewal cycles and age-specific in-person renewal procedures - go into effect in Virginia, at the stroke of midnight  on New Year’s Day. The new law lowers the age for mandatory in-person license renewal to 75 from 80. Starting January 1, 2015, Virginia drivers 75 years old and older will no longer be eligible to renew their driver’s license electronically or by mail. Instead, they must apply in person for every renewal, beginning at age 75. In addition, the new tougher rules shorten the license renewal cycle for drivers 75 and older from every eight years to every five years, as of January 1.

That means older drivers will be making more frequent trips to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) under the new special provisions. What’s more, licensed drivers in the state 75 and older must also pass the department’s vision requirements or present a vision statement, no older than 90 days, from an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.

 “Senior drivers favor tougher driving laws and an overwhelming majority support greater scrutiny in the license-renewal process for themselves and their peers. Remarkably, support for these measures was greatest among drivers 75 and older,” said Georjeane Blumling, Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “Older Americans tend to support policies to keep themselves safer behind the wheel, making them key allies in their mission to keep driving--smarter and longer, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s report Older American Drivers and Traffic Safety Culture.”

The new law (HB 771) gives judges more latitude to require older drivers found guilty in District Court  of a traffic misdemeanor, traffic infractions,  or other traffic violations to successfully complete traffic school, enroll in a “mature driver motor vehicle crash prevent course” or a “driving improvement course,” in lieu of a finding of guilty. As a sweetener, the law allows all insurers writing motor vehicle insurance in Virginia to offer reductions in insurance premiums upon successfully completing an approved crash prevention course through actual classroom instruction.

AAA Tidewater offers the Senior Defensive Driving Course for members and non-members   online or in a classroom setting. This is a class designed to reduce crashes involving mature drivers by increasing the understanding of how age affects driving decisions and how those decisions can alter risk.     

The 2010 Census reveals 817,339 Virginians 65 or older were licensed drivers. Previously, the in-person renewal requirements in Virginia applied strictly to drivers age 80 and older. Before the changes, the regulations governing older driver also required them to renew in person and pass a vision test once every eight years. Younger licensed drivers are required to renew their driver’s licenses every eight years.

Will mature drivers, who comprise approximately 16.1 percent of all licensed drivers in Virginia, be receptive to the tougher mature driving laws?  Research by the AAA Foundation finds:

  • More than seven out of 10 drivers age 65 and older favor policies that require drivers age 75 and older to renew their license in person and also support requirements that seniors pass a medical screening to remain licensed.
  • Nearly 80 percent of drivers over age 75 favor medical screenings for drivers ages 75 and older, and 79 percent of drivers in this age group support in-person renewals.

An estimated 12.5 percent of the population in Virginia is 65 or older. As 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, Virginia joins a growing number of states (33 states), all told, as of December 2014) and the District of Columbia in enacting special provisions for mature drivers.

Seniors represent the fastest-growing segment of drivers, with current projections suggesting that a quarter of all drivers will be over 65 by 2025, notes AAA Tidewater Virginia. Although seniors have an overall crash rate comparable to that of 20-and 30-year-old drivers, they are the most fragile drivers on the road, with a higher death rate per mile driven than any other group, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. AAA provides the following resources to mature drivers.

  • AAA Roadwise Review – A computer-based screening tool that allows older drivers to measure changes in their functional abilities scientifically linked to crash risk.
  • CarFit – A community-based program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them for maximum comfort and safety.
  • Smart Features for Mature Drivers – A guide to help identify vehicle features that can assist drivers with the visual, physical and mental changes that are frequently encountered as they age.
  • Senior Defensive Driving Course – An eight hour course designed to educate mature drivers of safe driving practices.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is taking a long-term look at aging drivers with a study that will systematically monitor the driving habits of more than 3,000 senior drivers over the next five years.

As part of North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA Tidewater Virginia provides its more than 325,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding AAA Tidewater Virginia has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.  For more information, visit AAA.com and follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/AAATidewaterVA or on Facebook at facebook.com/AAATidewaterVirginia