North Carolina Driving Laws for Seniors and Older Drivers

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

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While the myriad rules and regulations enforced by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) apply to drivers of all ages and stages, the state imposes some special requirements and restrictions on older drivers.

North Carolina 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. Specifically, North Carolina:

  • requires drivers age 66 and older to renew their licenses in person, and
  • accepts requests from family members and others for the DMV to conduct unsafe driver investigations.

License Renewal Rules for Older Drivers

Special rules apply to drivers who are 66 and older who seek to renew their licenses.

Time limits: Drivers age 66 and older must renew in person every five years; those 18 to 65 must renew every eight years.

Vision test: Required at in-person renewal. DMV personnel will conduct a test free, or drivers can have an exam performed by an outside ophthalmologist or optometrist, who must complete a Certificate of Examination by Vision Specialist form.

Traffic sign test: Required at in-person renewal.

Road test: Required only if there are indications of driver impairment, based on a report by a law enforcement officer, a physician, or a family member.

Possible License Restrictions

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

In North Carolina, the most common restriction for older drivers is to require glasses or corrective contact lenses, although other requirements may be imposed to ensure safe driving, including:

  • daylight driving only
  • no driving at speeds over 45 miles per hour
  • no interstate driving
  • driving restricted to a limited radius around home, and
  • driving only when another licensed driver is in the car.

Tinted Window Waiver for Vehicle

The DMV will issue a waiver to drivers with medical conditions requiring protection from sunlight or bright artificial light. The waiver, which requires a physician statement, authorizes a driver to equip a vehicle with window tinting films or applications that exceed the regulatory limit.

To apply for a waiver, the person with the medical condition must complete portions of a Tinted Window Waiver Application Form, then ask a doctor to complete the rest of the form and return it to the DMV’s Medical Unit.

How to Request an Unsafe Driver Investigation in North Carolina

The North Carolina DMV will accept information other DMVs, family members, doctors, law enforcement officers and other concerned individuals.

Those who wish to have a driver evaluated must complete a Medical Request for Driver Re-Examination and return it to the Medical Evaluation Program address given on the form.

Anonymous or unsigned requests will not be processed—and “advanced age” alone will not be considered a sufficient reason for re-examination.

Personnel at the Medical Unit will review each request and determine whether an individual’s license should be restricted or canceled. In some cases, a doctor will be required to conduct an additional examination and complete a detailed Medical Report Form.

How to Get a License Reinstated

For information on how to get back a license that has been suspended or revoked in North Carolina, contact one of the DMV offices located throughout the state.

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

Disabled person parking placards and license plates can be issued to drivers who qualify as disabled if a licensed physician certifies the condition.

The placards and plates are available for those who:

  • cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest
  • cannot walk without aid from another person or an assistive device such as a cane or walker
  • have severe lung disease
  • use portable oxygen
  • have a severe cardiac condition
  • are severely limited in the ability to walk because of an arthritic, neurological or orthopedic condition, or
  • are blind or have severely limited eyesight as certified by an ophthalmologist, optometrist, or the Division of Services for the Blind.

To obtain a disabled placard or plate:

  • Complete and sign an Application for Disability Parking Placard.
  • Have a licensed physician complete the Physician’s Section of the form.
  • Include a fee of $5 for each; the limit is two.
  • Mail the original application to the address on the form.

For a summary of requirements, see the downloadable brochure, A User’s Guide to North Carolina Handicap Parking Placards and Plates.

Learn More About North Carolina Driving Rules for Seniors

The DMV website offers basic information for North Carolina drivers, including requirements for licensing and registration.

Of special interest is the Driver Handbook, which includes a summary of the rules of the road and sample driver tests.

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 North Carolina.

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