Help For Drivers to Maintain Their Driving Independence

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Changes That Affect Driver Safety

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) developed this guide to provide useful information on safe driving for drivers of all ages. You will find information regarding the physical and mental changes that may affect safe driving and the strategies for recognizing, understanding, adapting, and planning for these changes. Safety research shows that as physical, emotional, and mental abilities decline, driver safety declines as well, increasing the risk of unsafe driving and collisions. Age alone is not a reliable measure of driving ability because our individual physical, emotional, and mental abilities decline at varying progressions in life. The following conditions might affect your ability to drive safely:

  • Vision Changes
    • Macular degeneration
    • Cataracts
    • Glaucoma
  • Cognition
    • Dementia
    • Stroke
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Brain injury
  • Physical Limitations
    • Excessive muscle weakness
    • Arthritis
    • Limited joint flexibility
    • Diabetes
    • Neuropathy
    • Impaired sensation
    • Paralysis
    • Amputation

Driver Evaluation Programs

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists are trained in driver evaluation and rehabilitation. They understand the complex demands and skills necessary to drive safely.

During an in-office evaluation, the occupational therapist will test:

  • Reaction time needed for stopping fast enough to avoid a crash.
  • Visual acuity or sharpness of vision.
  • Decision making needed for handling turns or in planning your driving trip.

The behind-the-wheel or road evaluation with the occupational therapist identifies a driver’s strengths, weaknesses, and ways to keep you driving safely, including the aid of adaptive equipment, such as:

  • Wide angle mirror
  • Seat cushion
  • Hand controls

Based on the results of the evaluation, an occupational therapist can make recommendations regarding driving strategies, specialized equipment, and training to improve your overall health, well-being, and driving safety. The goal is to help you continue to drive safely for as long as possible.


CarFit is a community-based educational program designed to help drivers who think their car “fit” can be improved. The 12-point CarFit checklist helps to ensure you or a loved one “fits” their vehicle properly for maximum comfort and safety

How it works: Trained volunteers take a CarFit participant through a 12-point checklist that includes finding the right distance between your chest and steering wheel and adjusting for the correct line of vision above the steering wheel.

How long it takes: A CarFit check takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

How to sign up: To sign up for a CarFit event near you, see the resources section of this brochure for contact information.

Smart Vehicle Features for Mature Drivers

When looking for ways to help maintain an older driver’s safety, it’s important to address the vehicle they are driving. Today, specific vehicle features can help improve driver safety and comfort. Because everyone ages differently, AAA recommends mature drivers look for vehicles with features that address their specific needs and health. These may include adjustable pedals, power-operated seats, or keyless entry.

Mature Driver Improvement Course

The Mature Driver Improvement Course is provided by various organizations. The course provides instruction on 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 driving ability.

AARP Driver Safety Course

The AARP Driver Safety Course helps lower the risk of traffic violations, collision, and injury. Completion of the course may qualify you for a three-year insurance discount. Check with your insurance agent to determine if insurance discounts are available.

Driving Represents

  • Freedom
  • Control
  • Competence

Driving, rather than being dependent on alternate transportation, is not only a matter of convenience, but can also affect our income and quality of life. We often drive to keep connected to our work, family, social, and volunteer activities.

DMV has put together a several educational resources to prepare you for changes in your driving skills so that you continue to enjoy your independence as long as you can.

However, if it is determined that it is no longer safe for you to drive, there are a number of transportation options that are available to you. See the resources section of this brochure for additional information.

Other DMV Publications You May Find Useful:

Senior Guide for Safe Driving

Preparing For Your Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (DL 926)


American Occupational Therapist Association (AOTA)

CarFit–A joint program of AARP, AOTA, and AAA helps mature drivers find their perfect fit. (Click on EVENTS) or contact the AARP Driver Safety Program at 1-888-227-7669.

Mature Driver Improvement Course

Visit our page or call the DMV at 1-800-777-0133.

AARP Driver Safety Program–Dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all-as we age. or call 1-888-227-7669.

AAA–Committed to a thoughtful approach to addressing senior transportation challenges in an effort to help seniors remain safe and mobile. or call 1-800-637-2122.

On the Go–Transportation Solutions for Older Adults *Limited San Diego service area* or call 619-220-0268.

State of California Senior Ombudsman Program

In a continuing effort to keep seniors driving for as long as they can do so safely, the DMV has created a Senior Ombudsman Program.

There are four ombudsmen assigned to this program who are located in various parts of California. The primary function of the Ombudsman Program is to represent the interests of public safety for all Californians with a special interest in addressing the concerns of senior drivers. The ombudsmen can assist as a “go-between” to ensure that senior drivers are treated fairly, consistent with laws and regulations, and with the dignity and respect they deserve. The ombudsmen are available to assist in individual cases, as well as participate in outreach seminars for large and small audiences to promote driver safety in California with an emphasis on senior issues.

DMV Senior Ombudsmen are available to assist you at the following locations:

Sacramento/Northern California
(916) 657-6464 or (916) 657-7109

San Francisco/Oakland
(510) 563-8998

Orange/San Bernardino/San Diego
(714) 705-1588

Los Angeles/Oxnard
(310) 615-3552