California Driver Handbook - Driver Readiness
Safety for the Aging Driver
DMV has published a handbook specifically for senior drivers. Go online at www.dmv.ca.gov to view or download a copy of the Senior Guide for Safe Driving (DL625), or call 1-800-777-0133 to request a copy be mailed, go to the local DMV field office, or contact the Senior Driver Ombudsman Program in your area:
Los Angeles and Central Coast Counties
Sacramento and Northern California Counties
Orange and San Diego Counties
San Francisco, Oakland, and Bay Areas
Good Vision for All Drivers
You need good vision to drive safely (see Vision section). If you cannot see clearly, you cannot judge distances or spot trouble, and you will not be able to make the best judgments. You also need to see peripherally or “out of the corner of your eye” to spot vehicles coming up beside you while your eyes are on the road ahead.
You may see clearly and still not be able to judge distances. You need good distance judgment so you know how far you are from other vehicles. Many people who may see clearly in the daytime have trouble seeing clearly at night. Some people see poorly in dim light. Others may have trouble with the glare of headlights.
Have your eyes checked every year or two. You may never know about poor peripheral vision or poor distance judgment, unless you have your eyes checked by a healthcare professional.
Hearing is more important to driving than many people realize. The sound of horns, a siren, or screeching tires can warn you of danger. Sometimes you can hear a vehicle but cannot see it, especially if it is in your blind spots.
Even people with good hearing cannot hear well if the radio or CD player is blaring. Do not wear a headset or earplugs in both ears while driving; it is against the law.
Hearing problems, like bad eyesight, can come on so slowly that you do not notice them. Have your hearing checked periodically. Drivers that are deaf or hard of hearing can adjust their driver safety habits by relying more on their seeing sense to compensate for the loss of hearing.
Fatigued or Drowsy Driving
The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 21% of all crashes that result in a fatality involve a drowsy driver. Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 44% of drivers admit to being drowsy or falling asleep at least once in their life while driving.
Being awake for 17 hours can equal the effect of a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05%, and being awake for 24 hours can equal the effect of a BAC of .10%. If you are drinking alcohol, and have had 4 hours of sleep, one beer can have the same effect as drinking a six-pack of beer.
What will not prevent drowsy driving:
- Rolling down the window.
- Drinking/eating caffeine or sugar.
- Turning on or turning up the radio.
- Turning on the air conditioning.
- Talking to passengers or talking over the phone.
- Exercising, eating, or relaxing without napping/sleeping. What will prevent drowsy driving:
- Getting enough sleep before driving, and not driving until you are rested.
- Driving with a passenger, and switching drivers when you start to feel drowsy.
- Pulling over safely and taking a 10-20 minute nap.
- Calling a ride service or a friend to pick you up and take you to your destination.
Signs that may identify if you or another driver are driving while drowsy:
- Yawning or rubbing eyes repeatedly.
- Slower reaction time.
- Falling asleep for a fraction of a second.
- Blurry vision.
- Crossing the center line or changing lanes unpredictably.
- Inconsistent speed.
- Erratic braking.
- Missing an exit, turn, or lane.
Remember that all medications, prescription or over-the-counter, are potentially dangerous and can impair your driving. Over-the-counter medicines that you take for colds and allergies can make you drowsy and affect your driving ability. If you must take medication before driving, find out the effects of the medication from your physician or pharmacist. It is your responsibility to know the effects of the medications you take.
Before you decide to drive, do not:
- Mix medications, unless directed by your physician.
- Take medications prescribed for someone else.
- Mix alcohol with your medications (prescribed or over-the-counter).
Health And Emotions
Your personality affects the way you drive. Do not let your emotions interfere with safe driving. Use your good judgment, common sense, and courtesy when you drive. Follow the recommended safe driving rules.
Discuss health concerns, such as poor vision, heart problems, diabetes, or epilepsy with your physician and follow their advice. Notify DMV if you have a condition that might affect your ability to drive safely.
Conditions Physicians Must Report
Physicians and surgeons are required to report patients at least 14 years old and older who are diagnosed as having lapses of consciousness, Alzheimer’s disease, or related disorders (California Health & Safety Code [CHSC] §103900).
Although not required by law, your physician may report to DMV any other medical condition that they believe may affect your ability to drive safely.