One out of every three licensed Wisconsin drivers is over the age of 55. While the myriad rules and regulations enforced by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) apply to drivers of all ages and stages, the state may impose some special restrictions on older drivers.
State rules are explained in more detail below, but some focus on identifying and handling older drivers who may have become unsafe. For example, Wisconsin accepts and investigates reports of potentially unsafe drivers from medical personnel and any other concerned citizens.
License Renewal Rules for Older Drivers
Older drivers may be required to submit to extra testing when renewing their licenses.
Time limits: All drivers must renew their licenses every eight years in person at a DMV Service Center.
Vision test: Required at in-person renewal. DMV personnel will conduct a test free, or drivers can have an exam performed by an outside licensed medical doctor, osteopath, optometrist, physician’s assistant, or advance practice nurse prescriber, who must complete a Certificate of Vision Examination by Competent Authority and conduct the exam within 90 days of the renewal request.
Written test: May be required at renewal if DMV staff deem it necessary, or testing is requested by a medical worker, law enforcement officer or other person with knowledge of the driver’s abilities.
Highway sign identification test: Administered along with the written test, but scored separately.
Road test: May be required at renewal if DMV staff deem it necessary, or if testing is requested by a medical worker, law enforcement officer or other person with knowledge of the driver’s abilities.
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.
The most common restriction for older drivers is to require glasses or corrective contact lenses.
In Wisconsin, other common requirements the DMV may impose on older drivers include:
- no freeway or interstate driving
- daylight driving only, and
- geographic area restrictions.
How to Request an Unsafe Driver Investigation in Wisconsin
The DMV accepts and investigates written concerns about unsafe driving from medical doctors, osteopaths, advance practice nurse prescribers, or any other concerned individuals.
Medical personnel can initiate a report by completing a Medical Examination Report.
Other concerned individuals can complete a Driver Condition or Behavior Report.
Personnel at the Medical Review Office will then evaluate whether or not a medical condition affects a driver's ability to drive safely.
Specifics that may be reported include a driver’s:
- physical condition
- mental or emotional condition
- propensity for blackouts, seizures or fainting spells
- lack of knowledge of traffic laws
- confusion or disorientation
- alcohol or drug misuse
- defective vision, and
- incidents of obstructing traffic.
Once the report is received, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) office may request an additional medical report from a physician or other treatment personnel. That report must be competed on the other side of the Driver Condition or Behavior Report.
If a medical doctor, osteopath or advanced practice nurse prescriber initiates the report, which he or she may do without the patient’s consent, a driver’s license may be canceled immediately.
Wisconsin has an open records law, which means that the reported driver can find out who filed the report about him or her. However, a person who has good reason to remain anonymous may request a Pledge of Confidentiality form, which must be signed in the presence of a Department of Transportation representative.
Depending on the nature of the driver's limitation, and the contents of the report, the Wisconsin DOT may require a:
- road test
- knowledge test
- medical report, or
- vision exam or screening.
It can then evaluate the results and decide whether to cancel a license or issue a restricted license.
How to Get a License Reinstated
For detailed information on how to get back a license that has been suspended or revoked in Wisconsin, see “How to reinstate a driver’s license or driving privilege.”
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:
- cannot walk 200 feet or more without stopping to rest
- cannot walk without help from a person or assistive device
- have severe lung disease
- use portable oxygen
- have severe heart conditions, or
- are severely limited in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological or orthopedic condition.
For detailed information about applying for plates and parking permits for those with temporary or permanent disabilities, see “Disabled parking license plates.”
Learn More About Wisconsin Driving Rules for Seniors
It also has a page dedicated to resources and information for Senior Drivers. Of special interest is the Older Driver Workbook: Be Safe, Not Sorry, which includes advice on assessing driving skills, along with suggestions for finding local alternative transportation sources.