Senior Guide for Safe Driving
Part 3: Making Adjustments
The per-driver collision rate is lower than average for older drivers because they tend to self-restrict their driving, drive less often, and compensate for age-related declines in their skills. Unfortunately, the rates for older drivers start to approach those of teens, when collisions are divided by miles driven. Because an older body is more fragile, the physical damage suffered in a collision is not only greater, but is also 3 times more likely to be fatal.
Being a safe driver involves more than avoiding collisions. Always wear your seat (safety) belt correctly (over your shoulder and across your lap). Lap and shoulder seat (safety) belts provide body support, protect you from injury, and reduce your chance of being thrown from your vehicle in case of a collision.
Is My Car Right for Me?
How your car fits you is another key to your safety and the safety of others. A proper fit between you and your vehicle means such things as:
- Seeing clearly over the steering wheel.
- Reaching the brake and accelerator with ease.
- Having your headrest in the proper position.
- Getting in and out of your vehicle with ease.
Even if your vehicle is not a perfect fit, adaptive devices and features are available to help you compensate for any physical changes you may experience making the vehicle more comfortable and safe for you to drive. Below are just a few examples of adaptive devices available for vehicles:
- Turning knobs
- Seat (safety) belt adaptors
- Mirrors to minimize blind spots
- Pedal extenders
To learn more about adaptive devices and programs available to assist you in evaluating how well you and your vehicle work together, check the resource listings. Your local American Automobile Association (AAA) Club, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), or an occupational therapist are additional resources.
Additional Safety Tips
- Never drink alcohol and drive.
- Do not drive if you are taking prescription or over the counter medications that may impair your driving ability.
- Talk to your physician if you have concerns about your driving safety.
- Do not drive when you are angry, upset, sleepy, or ill.
- Keep your vehicle mechanically sound (for example, your tires properly inflated, good brakes, good windshield wipers, etc.).
Mature Driver Improvement Course
The Mature Driver Improvement Course provides instruction, specifically tailored to older drivers, regarding defensive driving and California motor vehicle laws. During this course, information is provided on the effects that medication, fatigue, alcohol, and visual or auditory limitations have on a person’s safe driving ability.
“The most common physical restriction is related to vision”
The course requires classroom time of at least 6 hours and 40 minutes, which may be scheduled in 1 or 2 sessions. Present the DMV certificate to your insurer as proof that you have completed the course. Drivers 55 years old or older, who successfully complete an approved Mature Driver Improvement Course, may qualify for reduced motor vehicle insurance premiums. Check with your insurance provider. A list of approved programs is available on the DMV website at www.dmv.ca.gov.
Tips for Choosing a Driving School
- Look for a driving school that specializes in assessing older drivers.
- Check the driving school’s license status on the DMV website at www.dmv.ca.gov.
- Check the driving school instructor’s license status by calling DMV at (916) 229-3127.
- Contact your local Better Business Bureau to check for any complaints filed against the school.
- Compare tuition costs between driving schools and ask if there are any additional fees or charges. Always have a clear understanding of all costs.
- Ask about the school’s policy for cancelling or rescheduling a behind-the-wheel training session.
Restricted Driver License
Research shows that senior drivers who are aware that their driving skills are diminishing will often restrict themselves. You may have already decided that you do not like driving on certain roads or at certain times of the day. You may already stay off the freeway or only drive during daylight hours. These are self-imposed restrictions. There are also restrictions that DMV may place on a person’s driver license after a drive test and a discussion with the driver.
DMV places restrictions or conditions on a person’s driver license when it is necessary to ensure the person is driving within their ability. Driving restrictions should not be seen as punitive or as an attempt to limit your driving. They are actually imposed to assist you, as an effort to help you drive safer and longer. Restrictions may be discretionary (imposed by DMV) or mandatory (required by law). Unnecessary restrictions are never imposed. Any discretionary restriction(s) placed on your driving privilege will be reasonable and necessary for your safety and the safety of others.
Restrictions and conditions vary and may include:
- Requiring a person to place special mechanical devices on their vehicle.
- Limiting when and where a person may drive.
- Requiring eye glasses, corrective contact lenses, or other devices, such as outside mirrors, or a vehicle with an automatic transmission.
NOTE: There are no specific restrictions for seniors. All restrictions are based on conditions, not age.
Getting a Restricted Driver License
Any restriction placed on your driver license is based on the examiner’s findings and recommendations. The examiner looks at the results of your driving and vision tests and considers your individual circumstances.
Sometimes a restriction is added because of volunteered information about a physical or mental disability. Often, a person with a physical or mental condition is referred to DMV by a physician, law enforcement, or family member.
Common Restrictions for Senior Drivers
The number 1 restriction for drivers of all ages, is vision-related and usually requires the driver to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses. Other common restrictions include, but are not limited to:
- No freeway driving.
- Driving a vehicle with an additional right side mirror.
- Driving from sunrise to sunset (no night driving).
- Time of day restriction (for example, not during rush hour traffic).
- Area restriction (for example, to your physician, church, grocery store, etc.).