Licence renewal and safety for senior drivers

According to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), older drivers are involved in fewer crashes than other age groups. This is because they tend to drive conservatively, travel fewer kilometres, and restrict their driving to times and situations in which they feel more comfortable and safer. However, older drivers are more vulnerable if they are involved in a crash.

Drivers licencing validity and requirements

A driver’s licence is valid for ten years up to the age of 75. After that, a licence is valid for five years, after which it must be renewed every two years if the driver is older than 80. A medical certificate is required to renew a licence for drivers older than 75. This must be provided by a general practitioner (GP) who will complete a clinical assessment. The outcome of the assessment will result in one of the following recommendations:

  • The patient is medically fit to drive and does not require further assessment.
  • The patient is medically fit to drive with specified conditions.
  • The patient is medically fit to drive, but an on-road safety test with a testing officer is recommended.
  • The patient requires a further assessment before they can be deemed medically fit to drive. The patient may then be referred for specialist medical assessment or to an occupational therapist for driving assessment.
  • The patient is not medically fit to drive.

GPs may also recommend conditions be added to the patient’s driver licence to improve safety. These include driving an automatic vehicle only, no driving at night, or only driving within 10km from home. If a GP deems a patient unfit to drive, they must let NZTA know and the licence will expire on the holder’s birthday.

On-road safety test

If your GP decides you’re medically fit to drive but is unsure about your ability to drive safely, they may issue you with a medical certificate that allows you to renew your licence, provided you pass an on-road safety test with a testing officer.

You can book a test when you apply to renew your licence at selected branches of:

You can also book your test online on the NZTA website.

NZTA has a handy self-assessment tool that can help senior drivers examine and compare their skills with the requirements for safe driving. The tool also provides suggestions on how to improve each driving skill that is identified as an area of focus.

Refresh your knowledge

The best way to stay on top of road rules and making sure you’re a safe driver on the road is to refresh your knowledge. NZTA has free education resources and interactive activities on their website. Information you’ll find include:

  • Basic facts about senior road users
  • Choosing a safe vehicle for seniors
  • Information on using public transport and alternative transport schemes so you can keep your independence, even if you’re unable to drive

They also offer Staying safe: A refresher workshop for senior road users, a classroom-based workshop that aims to maintain and improve safe driving practices. During the workshop, you will re-familiarise yourself with the traffic rules and increase your knowledge on other transport options to help keep you as mobile as possible.

While no one wants to be told that they’re unfit to drive, it’s important to remember that resources and support are available to help senior drivers be safe on the road and maintain their independence.