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Elderly Drivers Face New Registration, Licensing Requirements In Texas

If you've just retired and are wondering what's going to happen as you continue to drive in Texas, you may not have realized that a law passed in 2007 affects how you'll be able to renew your license and registration.

First, there are no mandatory tests for senior Texans if they do not want them. However the law has made it a requirement to go to the local motor vehicles center for license renewals and a mandatory vision exam beginning at age 79. Between ages 79 and 84, a driver will still have one renewal guaranteed for six years. The change comes when they turn 85, when licensing becomes more stringent.

Beginning when a driver turns 85, the renewal date is two years after the last birthday before the most recent license. Fees are one-third as much as the six-year licenses to account for the greater number of renewals needed during this period. Drivers who are 85 years of age or older will also need to take the vision exam required of those aged 79-84.

The difference for those aged 85 or older is that the employees at Texas Motor Vehicles centers may, at their discretion, request to observe the driver while operating a vehicle. They may also ask to interview the driver in order to determine whether or not they are still able to drive.

Known as Katie's Law, the legislation eliminates the older possibility of renewing licences via the mail, or other non-public methods of license renewal.

The law came about in Texas thanks to the story of Katie Polka, a Dallas native who was sideswiped by an elderly driver as Katie was driving to her high school. The national movement to provide for more stringent renewal requirements for driver's license came as a result of what happened to Ms. Polka.

Legislators had originally faced heavy opposition from groups that advocate for aged Americans like the AARP. Their concerns evaporated when the Texas legislature eliminated mandatory tests, and instead provided for testing based on the judgment of employees at motor vehicle centers. The laws now more closely follow those that monitor the driving of younger motorists.

While this may feel like an imposition for elderly drivers who haven't attended Online Texas defensive driving school in decades or more, several states offer more stringent restrictions than those found in Texas. For example, full practical driving exams are required in several jurisdictions, and some states have more frequent renewal requirements that begin at a younger age.

Since the window begins during the ages of 79 to 84 for renewals in person, older drivers or their loved ones should be mindful of the new restrictions and make plans to attend their local department of motor vehicles. It also may be a good idea as one comes closer to age 85 to visit a family physician who can provide a second opinion about driving capability based on decreased reaction time, visual acuity or other issues that may cause questions from a driver license employee.