2.3 License Restrictions
If a State licensing agency determines through screening, assessment, medical referrals, road tests, or other means that a driver poses excessive risks only in certain situations, the driver can be issued a restricted license. This process of “graduated de-licensing” preserves the driver’s mobility while protecting the driver, passengers, and others on the road. Drivers whose vision is adequate during daylight hours but not at night present an obvious example. Their licenses can be restricted to daylight driving only. Other common restrictions limit driving to a specific geographical area, such as the town or county where the driver lives, or limit driving only to low- speed roads.
The AAAFTS “Noteworthy Initiatives” database lists Iowa, Minnesota, and Utah as having noteworthy ongoing restricted licensing programs (AAAFTS, 2016b). Iowa offers tailored drive tests that allow drivers to be tested in their own community on roads they would typically drive and, if successful, these drivers are allowed to drive where they have demonstrated proficiency. Iowa license examiners conduct approximately 100 to 150 such examinations each year. In Minnesota, drivers who live in rural areas and only need driving privileges close to home may arrange for road test examiners to go to the drivers’ homes. Examiners perform only about 25 of these road tests per year, and they may result in very customized licenses such as being limited to a specific route, specific hours of the day, or any combination of restrictions as appropriate. Utah has a well-established and mature restricted licensing program. In 2011 the State established the Driver Review Program to evaluate the program, including a review of the factors and processes being used to make decisions on restricted licenses. Kansas also had a Local Drive Program to enable restricted licensing for medically at-risk and older populations; however, the program was terminated in 2011 (AAAFTS, 2016b). Though the program was not evaluated formally, it was historically appreciated by the customers and program staff for having been a key safety program enabling a segment of the population to continue living independently.
Use: Iowa, Minnesota, and Utah are known to issue restricted licenses (AAAFTS, 2016b). The number of States currently issuing restricted licenses specifically for older drivers is not known, but the AAAFTS “Driver Licensing Policies and Practices” database shows 49 States and the District of Columbia can place at least some types of conditions or restrictions on licenses of older and medically at-risk drivers (AAAFTS, 2016a). Restrictions are generally determined using medical records or in consultation with physicians.
Effectiveness: Several studies show driver license restrictions lower the crash risk for older drivers, though their crash risk is still higher than for similar-age drivers with unrestricted licenses (Potts et al., 2004, Strategy C2; Vernon et al., 2001). Research conducted by Braitman et al. (2010) found license restrictions may be an effective alternative to complete driving cessation, and provide drivers with some degree of continued mobility and independence. However, they also concluded, while the overall safety benefits of license restrictions may be unknown, license restrictions tend to reduce driving exposure, especially in higher risk situations.
Langford and Koppel (2011) found imposing license restrictions were usually associated with reductions in absolute crash rates, and identified three restrictions producing lower crash rates for consideration. The three restrictions (driving in a specified distance of home, not driving at night, and driving only in specified areas) can be thought of as major components of a graduated driving reduction program.
An evaluation of the “local drive test” (LDT) option, offered to older Iowa drivers who might not otherwise be able to renew their licenses, found the overall crash rate of LDT drivers was higher than the general population of licensed drivers 65 and older, but was lower than the overall driver crash rate for Iowa drivers (Stutts & Wilkins, 2012).
NHTSA published a report on the compliance of older drivers with license restrictions (Joyce et al., 2018). The study used a combination of approaches including a literature review; a driving evaluator panel consisting of license administrators and LEOs from Florida, Iowa, and Virginia; an analysis of driver license and crash data from the three States and Maryland; and a field study of driving exposure of adults 70 and older. Restrictions included daytime driving only, maximum limit on travel speeds, and limits on geographic locations or distances traveled from home. In Maryland the restrictions on locations and distances traveled included limits on trip purpose. Crash rate analysis from the 4 States showed mixed outcomes. Drivers with restrictions had lower crash rates than when they drove without restrictions in Iowa and Maryland. In Virginia the crash rates slightly increased post-restriction. Notably, restrictions for speed and location (geographic limits) were associated with about a 25% reduction in crash rates in Iowa, whereas the daylight driving-only restriction was not associated with a crash rate reduction.
Costs: Once drivers have been screened and assessed, the costs of issuing a restricted license are minimal.
Time to implement: Restricted licenses can be implemented as soon as any needed policy or legislation changes are enacted.