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Senior Guide for Safe Driving - Part 5

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Senior Guide for Safe Driving

Part 5: Reexamination Process

One of DMV’s major responsibilities is to promote traffic safety while protecting the motoring public from unsafe drivers. Reexaminations are always based on events or issues related to driving and can occur at any age. California Vehicle Code (CVC) §12814(a) grants DMV the discretion to require a test for new drivers and/or when the driver’s record of convictions or collisions warrants it. The age of the driver is not a condition requiring a test of ability to drive safely. DMV keeps in mind the important connection between a driver license and a person’s independence when evaluating a driver’s ability to drive safely. 

How DMV Determines Reexamination

DMV receives information regarding a potentially unsafe driver from many sources, such as:

  • Your physician or surgeon, who is required by law to report to DMV certain conditions or disorders characterized by loss of consciousness or control, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The law also requires them to report other conditions which, in their opinion, may affect your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. 
  • Emergency medical personnel who assist you while in an emergency facility, due to a sudden loss of consciousness, awareness, or control.
  • Unsolicited letters from family members, friends, or neighbors who report that you may no longer be able to drive safely. 
  • A law enforcement officer who stops you for a traffic law violation or is at the scene of a collision in which you were involved and determines you may be an unsafe driver. 
  • A Notice of Priority Reexamination of Driver (DS 427) form from a peace officer who has observed your driving and believes you are an unsafe driver and should not continue to drive. 
  • If you indicate that you have a disease, disorder, or disability that affects your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely on your driver license application or renewal notice. 
  • If your driving record indicates collisions, traffic law convictions, reckless, negligent or incompetent driving habits, or any other reasons that would cause DMV to refuse a driver license. 
  • A DMV employee suspects you may have a lack of skill, or medical condition that may affect your driving ability, while you are conducting DMV business.

Medical Condition Evaluations

Once DMV is made aware that you have a medical condition that may cause a potential driving risk to yourself or others, or your driving record indicates negligent driving activity, DMV will evaluate your driving skills to ensure you can drive safely. DMV may do 1 of the following: 

  • Request medical information from you. If it is clear from the medical information that you do not present a driving risk, DMV’s evaluation may end, and no action will be taken. 
  • Conduct a “regular” reexamination. The reexamination may be conducted in-person or over the telephone. You may be required to present medical information and take an knowledge, vision, and driving tests, if appropriate. 
  • Conduct a priority reexamination. If law enforcement issues you a Notice of Priority Reexamination of Driver (DS 427) form, you must appear for the reexamination within 5 days. You are required to take a knowledge, vision, and driving tests, and present medical information. If you do not appear for your reexamination, your driving privilege will be suspended. 
  • Immediately suspend or revoke your driving privilege if your physical or mental condition presents an immediate threat to public safety.

Driving Tests

When DMV asks you to take a driving test, it is to determine whether you: 

  • Have the ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. 
  • Have formed or retained proper safe-driving habits. 
  • Can apply traffic laws to everyday driving. Can compensate for a physical condition that may affect safe driving ability, such as poor vision, loss of a limb, or early stages of dementia. During your driving test, the examiner will note any driving skill deficiencies or behaviors that need improvement, but would not disqualify you from keeping your driver license. The examiner will discuss these issues with you after your driving test. To help you prepare for your driving test, review the following publications: 

You may want to practice your driving skills by taking a Mature Driver Improvement Course for driver education and training. A list of approved Mature Driver Improvement Programs and Driver Safety offices are available on DMV’s website at www.dmv.ca.gov. If your driver license is suspended or revoked and you want to get your license back, contact your local Driver Safety office to inquire about a special instruction permit if the driving errors are correctable.

Driving Practice Tips 

DMV Decisions Following Reexaminations

Following a reexamination, the DMV hearing officer will take 1 of the following administrative actions: 

  • No Action: Your condition or driving record does not warrant an action against your driving privilege. 
  • Medical Probation (Type I): You must comply with your medical regimen and report any changes in your medical condition to DMV. 
  • Medical Probation (Type II): Your physician must submit periodic medical reports to DMV on specified dates. 
  • Limited Term License: You are issued a driver license for up to 2 years, and are required to return to DMV for reevaluation and retesting. 
  • Calendar Reexamination: You are required to appear for a reexamination at specified intervals, provide updated medical information, and submit to possible retesting. 
  • Restriction: You may only operate a motor vehicle under specific conditions and circumstances, such as driving during certain times of the day, driving within certain geographical areas, or having your vehicle equipped with specialized equipment. 
  • Suspension: Your driving privilege is suspended for an indefinite period of time. 
  • Revocation: Your driving privilege is terminated.

Duration of Suspensions/Revocations

“A suspension based upon a physical or mental condition shall continue until evidence satisfactory to the department establishes that the cause for which the action was taken has been removed or no longer renders the person incapable of operating a vehicle safely” (CVC §13556(c)).

This is important to distinguish for seniors who can improve their driving skill or are recovering from a medical condition that caused the suspension. Generally, the length of a suspension or revocation is indefinite. However, DMV will consider reinstating your driving privilege when additional information is available that indicates your physical or mental condition is under control and you are no longer a potential threat to safe driving.

Notification of Actions Taken Against Driving Privileges

DMV will notify you in writing of any action taken against your driving privilege and inform you of your legal rights, including your right to a hearing.

Administrative Hearings

Administrative hearings conducted by DMV provide a fair resolution of matters in a professional, efficient way and ensure that due process is afforded to all drivers. If you received notification that a proposed action is being taken against your driving privilege, you must request a hearing within 10 days of receiving personal service or 14 days from the date the notice is mailed. If you do not make a timely request, your right to a hearing will be lost.

Carefully read all documents personally provided or mailed to you by DMV. These documents tell you the issues involved in your case, deadlines to meet, and your rights in the administrative hearing process. The hearing will be limited to those issues listed in the documents.

“DMV wants you to continue driving for as long as you can safely do so”

The purpose of the hearing is to provide you with an opportunity to be heard and present relevant evidence or testimony on your behalf before an action is taken against your driving privilege. You may also have to appear in court for the same reason. Any action taken by the court is independent of the action taken by DMV.

Your Hearing Rights

You have the right to: 

  • Be represented by an attorney or other representative, at your own expense, but representation by an attorney is not required. 
  • Review the evidence and cross examine the testimony of any witness. DMV bases its case only on written documents. If you wish to question someone who either prepared a document or who is listed on a document that is used as evidence, it is your responsibility to subpoena that person. 
  • Present evidence and relevant witnesses on your own behalf. 
  • Testify on your own behalf.

Reviewing DMV's Evidence

Your verbal or written request to review and obtain a copy of DMV’s evidence regarding your case (known as discovery) must be submitted to DMV at least 10 days prior to the date of your hearing. In some cases, DMV will automatically provide you with this information (discovery). If you do not request a hearing, you give up your right to review the evidence that DMV will consider when making a decision in your case. 

Subpoenas

You have the right to subpoena witnesses, relevant records, documents, photos, etc., for your use at the hearing.

Although your witness may voluntarily attend your hearing, a subpoena protects your right under the law to compel the attendance of any witness. You are required to pay all witness fees and mileage to the hearing for any witness you subpoena on your behalf. If you know a witness requires special accommodation, you should contact DMV as soon as possible.

Subpoena forms are available through any Driver Safety office and may be downloaded from the DMV website at www.dmv.ca.gov. The subpoena(s) must be served by someone other than yourself.

Presenting Evidence

Any evidence you present must be relevant to your case. Evidence can be presented in the form of sworn documents, medical records, collision reports, photographs, or other relevant items. Evidence can also be sworn testimony taken under oath. On the date of your hearing, be prepared to bring any witness or written evidence from any witness who knows the specific issues involved in your case. Your witness should be prepared to answer any questions raised by the hearing officer. Evidence presented becomes part of DMV’s official administrative hearing record and will not be returned to you. Make copies of evidence you want to retain for your records prior to the hearing. 

Attendance

If you cannot attend your hearing on the scheduled date and time, you must contact DMV within 10 business days of the time you know, or should have known, that you need a continuance. You may be required to file a written statement indicating the reasons why you cannot appear. DMV will grant the continuance after 10 business days if you are not responsible for causing the delay and have made a good faith attempt to prevent the delay. If a continuance has not been granted and you do not attend your hearing, DMV will proceed with the hearing without you.

Notification of Decisions

You will be notified in writing of the hearing officer’s decision, regardless of whether or not you attend your hearing. The time it takes to make a decision depends on the issues being addressed, amount of evidence presented, and the testimony presented by witnesses. 

Appeals

If you disagree with the hearing officer’s decision, you have the right to request a departmental review of the decision and to appeal the decision in superior court. Requests for a departmental review or an appeal of the decision in superior court must be made within a certain time period depending on the laws affecting your case. The time periods for appeal and other specific information concerning your appeal rights are provided on the notice advising you of the hearing decision. 

Interviews

You may request an interview if your license has been suspended or revoked and your circumstances have changed. For example, you have new medical documentation or you would like to obtain a special instruction permit to improve your driving skills. If this is the case, contact your local Driver Safety office. 

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