Changes That Affect Driver Safety
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recognizes the decline of physical, emotional, and mental abilities increases the risk of unsafe driving and collisions. Conditions that may affect your ability to drive safely:
- Vision Changes
- Macular degeneration
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Physical Limitation
- Brain injury
- Excessive muscle weakness
- Limited joint flexibility
- Impaired sensation
DMV wants to keep you licensed while you can safely operate a motor vehicle.
Here are some testing tips and helpful information to keep you driving safely.
Vision Tests are required of original and renewal driver’s license applicants. To get the best results when taking a vision test, be rested and bring your newest glasses or contact lenses. You will read eye chart lines with both eyes and each eye individually. If you take the vision test wearing glasses or contact lenses, your driver’s license will have a “corrective lenses” restriction.
If you wear corrective contact lenses for the vision test, notify the DMV representative testing you.
If you cannot read the eye chart, we will test your distance vision on a vision testing machine. If you wear bifocals, look through the distance part.
DMV Visual Acuity (Vision) Screening Standard required for a driver’s license:
- 20/40 with both eyes together.
- 20/40 in one eye and at least 20/70 in the other eye.
Visual Acuity is the ability to see clearly, sharply, and recognize small details. If you cannot meet the vision screening standard, you must have a minimum visual acuity in one eye better than 20/200. You may wear glasses or contact lenses to meet the standard but not a bioptic telescopic or similar lens.
Monovision is one eye for distance, one for closeup. If you have monovision by surgery or contact lenses, you may not meet the vision screening standard.
DMV Evaluates Your Vision and considers:
- The severity of your vision condition.
- How your vision condition affects your central and side vision.
- If your vision condition affects one or both eyes.
- Whether your condition is correctable by glasses, contact lenses, or surgery.
- Whether your vision condition will get worse.
Vision Referral occurs when your vision does not meet DMV’s screening standard. You are given a Report of Vision Examination for your eye doctor to complete. When you return with the form, your vision will be retested. If you still do not meet the vision screening standard, you must pass a behind-the-wheel drive test to demonstrate you compensate for your vision loss and drive safely. However, your driver’s license may be restricted. Common restrictions include “Restricted to wearing corrective lenses” or “Restricted to driving during daylight hours only.” DMV considers your vision condition, driving needs, and eye doctor’s recommendation when issuing a full 5-year term or limited 1 or 2-year term driver’s license. If your vision condition is stable or will not impact your unaffected eye, you may not need the vision referral process for your next driver’s license renewal.
Resources to help you prepare for changes in your driving skills
Occupational Therapists (OT) can evaluate your driving to recommend aids, strategies, and training to improve your overall health, well-being, and driving safety. OTs are trained in driver evaluation and rehabilitation. They understand the complex demands and skills necessary to drive safely. During an in-office evaluation, the OT will test your:
- 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.
During a behind-the-wheel evaluation, the OT will identify your driving strengths, weaknesses, and ways to keep you driving safely, including equipment, such as:
- Wide angle mirror
- Seat cushion
- Hand controls
For more information, visit treds.ucsd.edu/driver-evaluation/.
Occupational therapist locator: eldersafety.org/resources/occupational_therapist_locator.html
Mature Driver Improvement Courses provide instruction on defensive driving and traffic laws, and information on effects that medication, fatigue, alcohol, and visual or auditory limitations have on driving ability. For more information, visit dmv.ca.gov/portal/mature-driver-improvement-program or call 1-800-777-0133.
AARP Driver Safety Course completion helps lower risks of traffic violations, collisions, and injury. Check with your insurance company to see if you qualify for a discount. For more information, visit aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/driver_safety/ or call 1-888-227-7669.
CarFit is a program by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), American Occupational Therapist Association (AOTA), and AAA to improve drivers’ car fit. The 12-point CarFit checklist helps you adjust your vehicle fit for maximum comfort and safety. This includes finding the right distance between your chest and steering wheel, and correct line of vision above the steering wheel. For more information, visit car-fit.org/ (see Events) or call AARP Driver Safety Program at 1-888-227-7669.
AAA – Information on senior driver safety and mobility, visit seniordriving.aaa.com or call 1-800-637-2122.
Community Liaison and Outreach
DMV has a Community Liaison and Outreach to help seniors continue driving for as long as they can do so safely. Community Liaison and Outreach represents public safety interests for all Californians with a focus on senior driver concerns. The liaison can assist as a “go-between” to ensure senior drivers are treated fairly, consistent with laws and regulations, and with dignity and respect. Contact the liaisons to assist in individual cases or participate in outreach events of any size.
For information about outreach services in your area or to speak to a liaison, contact Community Liaison and Outreach at (833) 493-0675.