D.C. Driving Laws for Seniors and Older Drivers

Learn about driving provisions and special programs focused on keeping both District of Columbia older drivers and roadways safe.

Updated By , Attorney

While the myriad rules and regulations enforced by the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) apply to drivers of all ages and stages, some special requirements and restrictions are imposed on older drivers.

The District of Columbia 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, the District of Columbia:

  • requires drivers age 70 and older to renew their licenses in person rather than online
  • requires drivers age 70 and over to pass a vision test at renewal
  • requires drivers age 70 and over to have a doctor complete a certification of physical and mental competence on a driver's license application, and
  • accepts written reports about unsafe driving concerns from law enforcement, physicians, and family members.

License Renewal Rules for Older Drivers in the District of Columbia

All DC drivers who renew their licenses after May 1, 2014 must comply with a one-time revalidation of their identities and be issued a REAL ID card, aimed at improving the reliability and accuracy of driver's licenses, making them more difficult to forge. When renewing, drivers will need to bring documents verifying their REAL ID Credentials, to one of the approved service locations.

After the initial REAL ID is issued, unique rules apply to DC drivers who are 70 and older who seek to renew their licenses.

Time limits: Every eight years. Drivers under age 70 may be eligible to renew online. Drivers age 70 and older must renew in person and have a doctor complete the Medical Fitness and Mature Driver Certification portions of the driver's license application.

Vision test: Required for drivers 70 years and older. Those who fail the screening by the DMV representative will be required to complete a Medical/Eye Report, which must also be completed by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Written test: Required if license has been expired for more than 365 days.

Road test: Required if license has been expired for more than 545 days. Senior drivers may be required to take the test if DMV personnel observe it to be necessary or if there have been reports of potential unsafe driving.

Possible License Restrictions

The DMV can place restrictions on a DC driver's license. The most common restriction for older drivers is to require glasses or corrective contact lenses. Daytime-only licenses are also available if indicated.

Vehicle Tint Medical Waiver

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 you to equip your vehicle with window tinting films or applications that exceed the regulatory limit.

To apply for a waiver, the person with the medical condition must submit a completed Vehicle Tint Waiver Request Form to a designated DC DMV service location or fax a completed form to 202-645-3210.

How to Request an Unsafe Driver Investigation in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia DMV will accept information from the driver himself or herself, family members, law enforcement officers, or doctors.

Self-reporting. Drivers who have a medical condition that may impair the ability to safely operate a vehicle, even temporarily, must provide the DMV with various portions of a Medical/Eye Report completed by a licensed physician, ophthalmologist, or optometrist and possibly take additional tests.

Some of these conditions and requirements include:

  • Alzheimer's Disease, which requires completion of the form's Medical Report and taking the knowledge and road skills tests
  • seizure disorder or loss of consciousness, which requires a Medical Report; drivers must be free from seizures for at least 12 months before obtaining a new or renewed license, unless a doctor verifies that the seizure was due to a change in medication or strictly nocturnal
  • insulin-dependent diabetes, which requires both a Medical and Eye Report, and
  • vision impairment—such as glaucoma, cataracts, eye disease, and monocular vision—which requires an Eye Report.

Reporting by others. If the DMV receives a detailed, written statement from a family member, law enforcement officer, or physician related to an individual's unsafe driving, the driver must complete a Medical Report and possibly complete other driving tests. For additional information, call 202-737-4404.

District of Columbia Driver Improvement Programs

The DMV has approved two online programs as DC Defensive Driving Courses—recommended both for those concerned about another person's driving abilities, and for individuals who want to refresh their own driving skills and knowledge.

Courses are offered by:

How to Get a License Reinstated

For information on how to get back a license that has been suspended or revoked in the District of Columbia, 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 tags can be issued to drivers who apply in person and who have a missing lower extremity or are unable to walk without a motorized wheelchair.

Others may apply for a short-term or long-term disability tag or parking placard if a licensed physician certifies the condition. The placards and plates are available for a driver who:

  • has lost the use of one or both legs
  • is severely disabled and unable to walk without the aid of a mechanical device such as a wheelchair, walker, crutches, cane, or long leg braces
  • has a severe respiratory disease or ailment, or
  • has a long-term physical disability that substantially impairs mobility.

Short-term tags and placards are available for those who have temporary physical disabilities that impair their mobility; a doctor must estimate the likely duration of the disability.

Steps required to obtain a disabled placard or tag are:

1. Complete and sign the Disability Parking Placard and/or Tags Application.

The form is available for download in:

2. Have a licensed physician complete the Medical Information section of the application.

3. Mail or fax the original application to the address indicated on the form.

Learn More About The District of Columbia Driving Rules for Seniors

The DMV website has a wealth of information for District of Columbia drivers, including explanations of licensing requirements and rules of the road.

Of special interest is the Senior Driver Information page and the DC DMV Senior Website, which include safe driving tips and resources targeted to 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 the District of Columbia.

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