Washington Driving Laws for Seniors and Older Drivers

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

Most of the myriad rules and regulations enforced by the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) apply to drivers of all ages and stages—and the state claims it imposes no special rules on drivers based on age alone.

Still, some of the legal controls discussed here, such as possible restrictions on a driver’s license and procedures for securing disability parking plates and placards, may be especially relevant for older drivers.

License Renewal Rules for Older Drivers

Time limits: All drivers must renew every six years.

Vision test: Required at in-person renewal. DOL personnel will conduct a test free, or drivers can have an exam performed by an outside ophthalmologist or optometrist, who must complete a Vision Examination Report and conduct the exam within three months of the renewal request.

Written test: Not generally required at renewal.

Road test: Not generally required at renewal.

Medical screening: At renewal, drivers will be asked if they’ve had a recent lapse of consciousness. If so, they may be required to submit a Physical Examination Report.

Possible License Restrictions

The DOL can place restrictions or conditions on a person’s driver license. The most common restriction for older drivers is to require glasses or corrective contact lenses.

In Washington, other common requirements the DOL may impose on older drivers include:

  • driving a vehicle with special mechanical control devices
  • limiting the type of vehicle that may be driven, and
  • other restrictions the DOL deems appropriate to assure the licensee’s safe operation of a vehicle.

How to Request an Unsafe Driver Investigation in Washington

The Washington DOL will accept information from law enforcement officers, agency personnel, medical professionals, and concerned citizens who have personal knowledge that a driver may have become unsafe behind the wheel.

To make such a request, complete a form, Driver Evaluation Request, and mail it or take it to one of the DOL locations listed on the form. The DOL will not keep such requests confidential—and may release the requester’s name to the driver or his or her attorney.

For more information, see “Report Unsafe Drivers” on the Washington DOL website.

How to Get a License Reinstated

For information on how to get back a license that has been suspended or revoked in Washington, contact one of the Driver Licensing Offices located throughout the state.

How to Get Parking Placards or 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 are available for those who:

  • cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest
  • cannot walk without the use of an assistive device
  • are severely restricted by lung disease
  • use portable oxygen
  • have a severe lung condition
  • have a severe cardiac condition
  • are severely limited in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition
  • have a disability resulting from acute sensitivity to auto emissions, which limits their ability to walk
  • are severely restricted by porphyria, or
  • are legally blind.

To obtain a disabled placard or plate:

  • Complete and sign a form, Disabled Parking Placard for Individuals.
  • Have a licensed physician, surgeon, chiropractor, podiatrist, naturopath, optometrist, advanced registered nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant complete the Doctor portion of the form.
  • Mail the original application to a Vehicle Licensing Office.

Learn More About Washington Driving Rules for Seniors

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

Of special interest is the downloadable “Driver Guide,” which includes explanations of rules of the road as well as safe driving tips. and is available in:

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 Washington.

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