Pennsylvania Driving Laws for Seniors and Older Drivers

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

The number of Pennsylvania drivers age 65 and older reached nearly 2 million recently—and is growing yearly. While the myriad rules and regulations enforced by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) apply to drivers of all ages and stages, the state imposes some special requirements and restrictions on older drivers.

Pennsylvania state rules are explained in more detail below, but a couple of them focus on identifying and handling older drivers who may have become unsafe.

Specifically, Pennsylvania:

  • conducts random tests of a sample of drivers who are age 45 and older each month—and requires them to submit vision and physical exams to prove fitness for driving, and
  • requires doctors and other medical practitioners who diagnose patients with conditions that may make them unsafe drivers to report the diagnosis.

License Renewal Rules for Older Drivers

Pennsylvania operates a unique program in which nearly 2,000 drivers over the age of 45 are chosen at random each month to have vision and physical exams.

Time limits: All drivers must renew every four years.

Vision test: May be required if driver is randomly chosen for retesting.

Physical fitness test: May be required if driver is randomly chosen for retesting.

Written test: May be required in the discretion of DOT personnel.

Road test: May be required in the discretion of DOT personnel.

Possible License Restrictions

The DOT 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 Pennsylvania, other common requirements the DOT may impose on older drivers include driving only:

  • vehicles equipped with air brakes
  • vehicles equipped with mirrors on both sides
  • vehicles with automatic transmissions
  • during daylight hours
  • within a specified geographic area
  • while wearing hearing aids, and
  • in accord with the specific medical restrictions listed on the driver’s license.

How to Request an Unsafe Driver Investigation in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania DOT will accept information from medical practitioners, police family members and other concerned individuals who have information that a person may have become unsafe behind the wheel.

To request that the DOT review driving qualifications, write a detailed letter regarding your observations and the driver's specific medical impairments. The letter must also include your name and contact information.

Mail the letter to:

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

P.O. Box 68682

Harrisburg, PA 17106

Additional information is available in a downloadable guide, “Talking With Older Drivers: A Guide for Family and Friends.

Mandatory Reporting for Doctors

Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that require medical practitioners—which includes all physicians, chiropractors, physician assistants, certified registered nurse practitioners, and others authorized to diagnose or treat disorders and disabilities—to report within 10 days, in writing, the full name, address, and date of birth of every person over 15 years old diagnosed as having a condition that could impair his or her ability to drive.

For detailed information on the requirements of medical reporting, as well as downloadable forms, see the DOT’s Medical Reporting Information Center.

Pennsylvania Driver Improvement Programs

Drivers can improve their skills by taking an education and training class specifically developed for older drivers. Local course offerings approved by the DOT called “Mature Driver Improvement Courses” are listed on the DOT website.

How to Get a License Reinstated

For information on how to get back a license that has been suspended or revoked in Pennsylvania, contact one of the DOT Driver License 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 with impaired mobility if a licensed medical practitioner certifies the condition.

The placards and plates are available for those who:

  • are blind
  • do not have full use of one or both arms
  • 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
  • are severely limited in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition, or
  • are responsible for the life and care of a person with one of the conditions described above.

To obtain a disabled placard or plate:

For more information, see the comprehensive section on the DOT’s website, “Person With Disability Parking Placards/Plates.”

Learn More About Pennsylvania Driving Rules for Seniors

The DOT website has a wealth of information for Pennsylvania drivers, including licensing and vehicle registration requirements.

Of special interest is the “Older Driver Information Center,” which includes advice on recognizing and assessing vision and cognitive impairment and conditions that may affect driving, along with other targeted and practical information for older 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 Pennsylvania.

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