Iowa Driving Laws for Seniors and Older Drivers

Learn about driving provisions and special programs focused on keeping both Iowa's older drivers and roadways safe.

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While the myriad rules and regulations enforced by the Iowa Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) apply to drivers of all ages and stages, the state imposes some special requirements and restrictions on older drivers.

Iowa state rules are explained in more detail below, but a number of them focus on identifying and handling older drivers who may have become unsafe behind the wheel.

Specifically, Iowa:

  • requires drivers age 69 and older to renew their licenses more frequently than younger drivers, and
  • accepts requests to conduct an unsafe driver investigation from anyone with knowledge of the driver’s skills.

License Renewal Rules for Older Drivers

Iowa recently changed its standard license term from five years to eight years, and during the somewhat complicated transition period, some Iowa driver's licenses will be issued with a randomly assigned expiration date of between five and eight years. Special rules apply to older drivers who seek to renew their licenses.

Time limits: Drivers age 18 through 68 must renew every five to eight years—the renewal time to be selected randomly by the MVD. Those age 69 must renew every five years; age 70 every four years, age 71 every three years and age 72 two and older every two years.

Vision test: Required at renewal. MVD personnel will conduct a test free, or drivers can have an exam performed by an outside vision specialist, who must complete a Vision Report and conduct the exam within 30 days of the renewal request.

Written test: May be required if driver is the subject of an unsafe driving investigation.

Road test: May be required if there has been a change in the driver’s health or the license does not reflect his or her current medical condition.

For more information specifically for older drivers, see the booklet published by the Iowa Department of Transportation, “Driver’s License Renewal in Iowa.”

Possible License Restrictions

The MVD can place restrictions or conditions on a person’s driver license after administering a driving test and discussing possible restrictions with him or her.

The most common restriction for older drivers is to require glasses or corrective contact lenses.

In Iowa, other common requirements the MVD may impose on older drivers include:

  • vehicles equipped with an additional right side mirror
  • no nighttime driving, and
  • wearing bioptic telescopic lens when driving.

How to Request an Unsafe Driver Investigation in Iowa

The Iowa MVD will accept a request to re-examine a driver from any source who has personal knowledge of his or her skills and abilities. However, the source of such requests will not be kept confidential.

Those who wish to make a request for re-examination must fill out a form in person at a local MVD office. It is advisable to phone first to be sure a particular office handles such investigations.

How to Get a License Reinstated

For information on how to get back a license that has been suspended or revoked in Iowa, see “Appealing the loss of your driving or vehicle registration privileges.”

How to Get Parking Placards or License Plates for a Disabled Driver

Disabled person parking placards and license plates can be issued to drivers with impaired mobility if a licensed medical practitioner certifies the condition.

The placards and plates are also available for those who:

  • cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest
  • cannot walk without the use of, or assistance from, a brace, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair, or other assisting device
  • are severely restricted by lung disease
  • use portable oxygen
  • have a severe cardiac condition, or
  • are severely limited in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition.

Steps required to obtain a disabled placard or plate are:

Learn More About Iowa Driving Rules for Seniors

The MVD website has a wealth of information for Iowa drivers, including explanations of licensing and car registration requirements.

Of special interest for older drivers is the downloadable booklet, “Driving With Diminished Skills,” which includes advice on recognizing and assessing vision and cognitive impairment and conditions that may affect driving and the MVD web page dedicated to Senior Drivers.

Where to Find a Lawyer for Help

You can use Nolo’s Lawyer Directory to find a local lawyer experienced in representing older people who need help with auto accidents or traffic tickets in Iowa.

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