Senior Drivers

Elder Standing

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) wants to help you maintain your driving independence for as long as you can safely drive. In this guide, you will find information on DMV services, safety guidelines, and other resources to help keep you on the road.

Information for Seniors

California has extended noncommercial driver licenses (including AB 60 and limited-term) expiring during the COVID-19 pandemic. The terms of your extension depends on your age.

  • License holders 69 and younger (Beginning March 1, 2020): Most drivers now qualify for online renewal.
  • License holders over the age of 70 (March-December 2020 expirations): Extension valid for one year from original expiration date.

The extensions are automatic, but eligible drivers will not receive a new card or paper extension in the mail. As an option, these drivers can request a free temporary paper extension online through DMV’s Virtual Field Office to document their extension, though one is not needed to drive.

Your Driver License

DMV does not take away your driver license when you reach a certain age. Your mental and/or physical condition or your inability to follow traffic laws and rules regardless of age determines whether your license is renewed, restricted, suspended, or revoked. 

At one time or another, every California driver receives a renewal notice requiring them to personally visit a DMV office. For some, this brings to mind visions of nerve-racking tests and waiting in line. Visiting your local DMV office does not have to be an intimidating experience. If you follow the steps below, you can transform your DMV visit into a quick and anxiety-free experience.

  • Make an appointment. Customers with appointments typically do not wait as long as customers without appointments, and complete their transactions sooner.
    You can make an appointment online or you can call DMV toll-free at 1-800-777-0133.
  • Review the California Driver Handbook if you are required to take a written knowledge test.
  • In preparation for your appointment, be sure to:
    • Bring your renewal notice. This will save you from having to complete an application form.
    • If you wear eyeglasses, bring them. Visit your vision specialist for an eye exam before going to DMV if you have not had your vision checked within the last two years, or if you think your eyesight has deteriorated since your last license renewal.

Customers aged 70 or older must renew their driver license in person at a DMV office. If you are under 70, you may renew your license online (if eligible).

See if you’re eligible to renew online

If you have moved since your last renewal, please let us know. You can change your address online. You won’t receive your renewal notice if DMV does not have your current address. 

DMV is committed to helping you keep your driver license for as long as you can safely drive. If you are nervous or confused about the vision test, please let the DMV employee know so they can help with any concerns you may have.

Your eyesight will be tested using a wall chart that measures your visual acuity (how sharp your vision is). The wall chart is located 20 feet from where you will be standing and contains five lines of letters for you to read. If you cannot read the letters on the wall chart, you will be asked to look into a vision testing machine called the Optec 1000. You look into this machine with both eyes open and look for specific objects.

If you do not meet DMV’s vision standard of 20/40:

  • The DMV employee will give you a Report of Vision Examination (DL 62) form and ask you to see a vision specialist (a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist).
    • If you submitted a DL 62 within the previous six months, a new DL 62 form is not required. However, if you had eye surgery within those six months, you must complete and submit a new DL 62 so that your vision specialist can give DMV an update on your vision.
  • If you are renewing your license, DMV will issue you a 30-day temporary license if your eyesight is no worse than 20/70 with both eyes. This should give you enough time to make an appointment with your vision specialist.
  • Your vision specialist will give you a full vision exam to determine your ability to drive safely. Then you must bring the completed DL 62 back to a DMV office and take another vision test.
    • If you pass the vision test, DMV will renew your driver license and add (or retain) a corrective lens restriction to your driver license. You must wear your corrective lenses while driving if you passed the vision test while wearing your glasses or corrective contact lenses. There will be no lens restriction if you passed the vision test without glasses or corrective contact lenses.
    • If you do not pass the vision test, DMV will schedule a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE) (driving test) for you to see if you can compensate for your vision condition. If your vision specialist prescribes them, you must wear your glasses or corrective contact lenses. If you pass the driving test, DMV will renew your driver license and add (or retain) a corrective lens restriction to your driver license.

If your vision specialist prescribes new eyeglasses or recommends another type of vision correction, please wait until you have completed your vision specialist’s recommendations before returning to DMV. DMV will retest your vision, and you may not pass the vision test if you aren’t used to your new lenses.

Other vision related issues

  • Bioptic telescopic lens wearers

    If your vision specialist has prescribed a bioptic telescopic lens for you, you may not wear your lens to pass the vision test.

    A DMV employee will give you a Report of Vision Examination (DL 62) and ask you to see your vision specialist. When you return with your completed DL 62, you will be asked to take an SDPE (driving test) to determine if you can drive safely while wearing your bioptic telescopic lens. If you pass your driving test, your license will be restricted to wearing your bioptic telescopic lens when driving. If you passed the driving test during the day, you will have a daylight driving restriction. If you passed the driving test at night, you will not have a daylight only restriction.

  • Monovision

    If you have monovision (one eye corrected for distance vision and one eye treated or untreated for close-up vision) and DMV has no record of your vision condition, the DMV employee will give you a Report of Vision Examination (DL 62) and ask you to see your vision specialist. When you return with your completed DL 62, you will be asked to take an SDPE (driving test) to determine if you can drive safely.

  • Other health conditions that affect vision 

    One of the following health conditions may cause you to not meet DMV’s minimum vision screening standard. If this happens, you will be referred to DMV’s Driver Safety Branch for a hearing. Existing health conditions that may affect your vision include, but are not limited to:
    • Brain tumor or lesion
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Diabetic retinopathy
    • Head trauma
    • Kaposi’s sarcoma ocular lesions
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Stroke

It is important to read the California Driver Handbook before taking the written test. If you need to go to a field office to take a written test, please follow the suggestions below to help you successfully pass the first time you take the test.

A few notes about the written test:

  • All test questions are based on the California Driver Handbook, so take time to review the California Driver Handbook and take the sample tests. It is worth noting that DMV’s written test may contain driving situations that you have never encountered in your own day-to-day driving, making reviewing the handbook that much more important.
  • If you are testing as part of renewal, the renewal written test has only 18 questions. Take your time and read each question carefully, trying not to read anything extra into the questions. There are no trick questions, and there is only one correct answer per question.
  • The test is available in English and many other languages. If you take the written test in a foreign language, you must also take a traffic signs test.
    • The English language written test is available in large print.
    • There is also a video sample test available in American Sign Language.
  • If you fail the real test, don’t worry! You have two more chances to take the test before a new application and fee are required. If this happens, DMV recommends that you again review the handbook and the sample tests before taking another written test.
  • You may want to make an appointment for late morning or early afternoon when the office is not so busy.

If you are asked to take a driving test, do not worry – it does not necessarily mean that you will lose your driving independence.

DMV evaluates all drivers using the same standards, including senior drivers. Conditions that can affect your ability to drive safely are things like medical conditions and your ability to follow traffic laws and rules.

If DMV asks you to take a driving test, it might be because:

  • You did not meet the minimum vision requirements.
  • You were referred from a Driver Safety office because you have a medical condition, or your driving skills need improvement.
    • If a law enforcement officer, your doctor, or a relative or friend is concerned about the way you drive, they might refer you to DMV to improve your driving ability.

If you pass your driving test and demonstrate that you can drive safely even though you have a physical and/or mental condition, then DMV might issue a license to you.

If you are interested in taking additional driving lessons to keep your skills sharp, a Mature Driver Improvement Program might be for you.

In certain situations, you may be aspect to take a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE). The SDPE helps DMV evaluate the driving skills of people who have a medical condition or other physical or mental conditions that may affect their ability to drive safely.

You can prepare for the SDPE by reviewing the California Preparing for Your Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation Guide.

In some situations were an SDPE is required, such as when you live in an area where the driving environment is less demanding than the area around your local DMV field office, you may have the option to take an Area Driving Performance Evaluation (ADPE).

In an ADPE, a DMV examiner goes to your home and administers the drive test in your area. This way, you can drive within your neighborhood, including locations where you typically drive. You will be driving to familiar locations while using routes that your have become comfortable with, yet will be restricted

If you pass the ADPE, you will receive a driver license that restricts you to driving only in the geographical area you were tested in while using the specific roads and routes traveled during the ADPE. A restriction may also be added for no freeway driving and/or for driving only during daylight (sunrise to sunset).

In order to ensure you can continue driving safely, DMV might place a restriction or condition on your driver license. 

You might receive a restriction based on a driving examiner’s findings and recommendations. In that case, the driving examiner will look at the results of your driving test, vision test, and consider your individual circumstances. Sometimes DMV might also place restrictions on your license based on information shared by you or a family member, doctor, or law enforcement. 

Rest assured that DMV does not make these decisions lightly. Any discretionary restrictions placed on your driving privilege will be reasonable and necessary for your safety.

The most common driving restrictions affecting senior driver are:

  • No freeway driving.
  • Driving a vehicle with an additional right side mirror.
  • Driving only from sunrise to sunset (no nighttime driving).
  • Time of day restrictions (for example, no driving during rush hour traffic).
  • Using adequate support to ensure proper driving position.
  • Area restriction.
  • Wearing bioptic telescopic lens when driving/restricted to driving from sunrise to sunset.

Restrictions may be discretionary (imposed by DMV) or mandatory (required by law).California Vehicle Code (CVC) §§12812, 12813, and 13800

As a senior driver, you should know that most restrictions are related to declining physical conditions. The most common physical restrictions relate to vision, as vision can decline due to physical changes or certain disease. Other physical and/or mental restrictions are imposed when a person’s physical or mental health declines, and it is necessary to restrict driving.

You can learn more about medical conditions and driving in the Driver Education section.

DMV reexamination happens when DMV must evaluate a person’s driving skills. If you have a recent physical or mental condition or a poor driving record, DMV might require a reexamination.

A number of sources might request reexamination:

A number of sources might request reexamination:

  • Your doctor – Physicians are required by law to report medical conditions or disorders that involve loss of consciousness or control, along with other medical conditions that may affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
  • An emergency technician – Emergency personnel who treat you in an emergency facility because you experienced a sudden loss of consciousness, awareness, or control, are required by law to report your medical conditions.
  • A family member – Family members, friends, or neighbors may contact DMV to express concern about your ability to drive safely.
  • A peace officer – Any law enforcement officer who stops you for a traffic violation or who is called to the scene of an accident you were involved in may report to DMV that you appear to be an unsafe driver. The law enforcement officer can report what they observe about you that indicates you are not driving safely.
  • Your DL renewal application – Your DMV application asks if you have a disease, disorder, or disability that affects your ability to drive safely. Answering “Yes” requires further investigation by DMV.
  • Your driving record – Your driving history, which includes accidents, traffic convictions, reckless or negligent driving habits, fraudulent use of a DL, or other grounds can cause DMV to not issue a DL to you.

Priority Reexamination 

If a peace officer has observed your driving and is concerned that you cannot drive safely, they may request a priority reexamination (“priority reex”). This means you will be immediately evaluated by a DMV Driver Safety hearing officer. 

A peace officer can start the priority reexamination process if they observe a driver:

  • Committing a violation of the “Rules of the Road.”CVC §§2100-23336
  • Exhibiting evidence of physical or mental incapacity.
  • Potentially posing a significant traffic safety risk.

The peace officer may also issue a citation for the driving offense when they give you the priority reexamination notice, but that does not happen in every case.

After the officer issues you the priority reexamination notice, you must contact your local DMV Driver Safety office within five days or your driver license will be suspended. Instructions are included on the priority reexamination notice.

Read more about the reexamination process.

If DMV decides to suspend or revoke your driver license, you have the right to request a DMV administrative hearing. This hearing is designed to give you an impartial judgment on driver license matters in an unbiased, professional way. 

The hearing is your opportunity to explain to DMV why you feel you should be able to keep your driver license.

How do I request an administrative hearing?

When you receive a notice from DMV informing you that an action will be taken against your driving privilege, and you want an administrative hearing, you must make your request for a hearing immediately. You have only 10 days to request your hearing if you were personally given your notice of action, or 14 days if the notice was mailed to you. Your right to a hearing may be lost if you do not contact DMV Driver Safety within these time frames.

What happens at a hearing?

Your hearing will be at a DMV Driver Safety office. At your hearing, the hearing officer will record your conversation. The DMV hearing officer will listen and weigh the facts of your case before making a decision regarding your driving privilege.

The DMV hearing officer may decide to:

  • End or dismiss the action. This means you will be able to drive again without issue.
  • Restrict your driver license or place you on probation so you can continue driving, but on a limited basis, such as “no driving at night”.
  • Uphold the original decision to suspend or revoke your driving privilege

If you believe that the DMV hearing officer’s decision is unfair or incorrect, you may request an appeal of DMV’s decision. Usually, there is no fee for the departmental review. You may also ask for a court review, but you would have to pay for that.

What are my legal rights during the hearing?

The DMV hearing officer will ask you if you understand your rights before beginning the hearing. If you do not know or understand your hearing rights, please ask the DMV hearing officer to explain them to you. The hearing process is designed to give you the opportunity to be heard and to address any concerns you may have regarding your driving privilege.

These are your rights for an administrative hearing:

  • You can be represented by an attorney or another representative, at your own expense. Having an attorney is not required, but it is your choice if you want one.
  • You can testify on your own behalf.
  • You can review DMV’s evidence and cross-examine any witness offered by DMV. DMV’s evidence is usually written documentation. You may request a copy of this documentation to review before your hearing. If you want to question the information contained in the evidence, you must subpoena, at your own expense, the person who prepared that document.
  • You can present your own evidence and/or relevant witnesses on your behalf. Any evidence you present must be relevant to your case. The evidence becomes part of the official record maintained by DMV and will not be returned. Evidence may include things like: copies of medical evaluations, vision examinations, accident reports, photographs, or other documents that support your claim to keep your driver license.
  • You can appeal any adverse decision. You may appeal the decision through a DMV review or through Superior Court.

DMV issues identification (ID) cards to people of any age. If you are a senior citizen aged 62 years or older, you qualify for a no-fee Senior Citizen ID card that remains valid for eight birthdates from the date of application.

You can apply for or renew your Senior Citizen ID card using the standard ID card application. Applying for, renewing, or replacing a Senior Citizen ID card is free of charge.

Learn how to:

Your Health

As we age, we change physically and mentally. These changes can and do affect our driving skills. Getting older does not automatically make us poor drivers. Many people continue to be safe drivers well into their golden years.

  • As you age, your joints may stiffen and your muscles weaken. It may become more difficult for you to turn your head to look over your shoulder or to quickly turn the steering wheel or step on the brakes.
  • Your eyesight and hearing change with age. Older eyes need more light to see but you may be bothered by glare from the sun, oncoming headlights, or streetlights.
  • The aging process may slow your reflexes and shorten your attention span. You may find it harder to concentrate on two things at once. Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease affect your thinking and behavior.

Because our bodies are changing, we may take medications, vitamins, and supplements to help keep ourselves healthy and active. Medications, whether they are prescribed by your physician or bought over the counter, can affect your ability to drive safely.

Occupational therapy can help you keep your driving independence longer. Occupational therapy practitioners are trained in driving rehabilitation to help you understand the critical demands of driving and how your ability to move about your community affects the quality of your life.

Occupational therapy practitioners also have the skills to evaluate whether you can operate a vehicle safely, as they have the science-based knowledge to understand the progressive conditions and life changes that can affect seniors as they drive.

Because occupational therapy practitioners take the time to understand the role that driving plays in your life, they are able to help you make the transition from driving to using other forms of transportation that offer the services and features they require to maintain safe community mobility. In doing so, they help people maintain their autonomy, independence, and sense of worth.

People take medications for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, you might take prescribed medications to control, maintain, or treat medical conditions and for allergies, depression, and pain management. Sometimes, you might need to take a combination of medications to treat more than one condition.

How do medications affect my ability to drive safely?

Some medications (or combinations of medications) can cause a variety of reactions that may make it difficult for you to drive safely. Some reactions include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed reaction and movement
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Inability to focus or pay attention
  • Nausea

Some medications taken in combination with others, with or without food, or during certain times of the day, may make it appear that you have a cognitive impairment such as dementia. At times like these, it is unsafe to drive.

What can I do to keep driving safely while taking medications?

  • Talk to your doctor. Ask your doctor if your prescribed medication has any side effects. Ask if taking the medication will affect your driving ability. Be sure to tell your doctor of any other medications, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal supplements you are taking.
  • Ask your doctor if you should drive. This is especially true when you start taking a new medication and do not know exactly how it will affect you or interact with other medications you are taking.
  • Talk to your pharmacist. Ask your pharmacist to discuss your medications with you and review any effects they may have on your ability to drive safely.
  • Monitor yourself. Learn how your body reacts to the medications and supplements you are taking. If you are taking a new medication, keep track of how you feel after you take it.
  • Keep your doctor and pharmacist up to date. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about any reaction, no matter how mild, you have regarding your medication.

Your ability to see clearly when driving changes with age. Limited vision is a very common reason many seniors are referred to a vision specialist, drive with restricted driver licenses, or have their driver privilege revoked. Some age-related vision changes that commonly affect seniors are:

  • Not being able to see as clearly as before
  • Having difficulty seeing an object up close
  • Needing more light
  • Noticing changes in color perception
  • Having more difficulty seeing in the dark
  • Being less able to adapt to glare
  • Experiencing a loss of side vision

Effects on driving ability

There are a number of age-related vision conditions that can negatively impact your ability to drive safely. Some examples of the ways that vision conditions can affect driving are:

  • Your vision is affected by bright sunlight or the headlights of oncoming traffic.
  • It becomes more difficult to judge distances and speed.
  • It becomes more difficult to distinguish road signs and to gauge oncoming traffic.
  • Your eyes get tired easily making it more difficult to concentrate.
  • Left-hand turns become more difficult than right-hand turns.
  • You might have more difficulty assessing right-of-way situations, especially if you experience blurred vision.

What can I do make sure I continue to drive safely?

  • Get regular eye exams at least every two years, though if your vision condition changes rapidly, it is helpful to visit more often than that.
  • Limit yourself to driving only in the daytime if you are having trouble seeing at night or your eyes have difficulty recovering from the glare of oncoming headlights.
  • Turn your head frequently to look behind and around you so you can compensate for any decreased peripheral vision.
  • Add a larger rearview mirror to your car to give you more room to see the vehicles behind and around you.
  • Look ahead of your vehicle while driving so you will see trouble coming before you reach it. As a rule, look at least one block ahead if you are in the city, and on the highway, look 12 to 15 seconds ahead of your vehicle.
  • Avoid wearing eyeglasses and sunglasses with wide frames or temples that might make it difficult to see to your left or right.

Cognitive functions affect your brain’s ability to process incoming information, such as your perception, reasoning, judgment, intuition, and memory. This is why cognitive impairments can negatively affect your ability to drive safely.

It is important to remember that many cognitive impairments are progressive, which means they get worse over time. If you get diagnosed early, then you can receive proper treatment that is vital to ensuring you will be able to drive for as long as possible.

However, once the condition reaches the moderate or severe stages, it is too dangerous for you to continue driving.

What are some of the causes of cognitive impairment?

Medical conditions such as the following can cause cognitive impairment:

  • Dementia (Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia)
  • Brain Tumors
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Seizure disorders (lapse of consciousness condition) such as epilepsy
  • Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea)
  • Stroke
  • Concussion
  • Vertigo

It’s natural to slow down a bit as you age, but it is important to keep your motor functions in good shape so you can continue to drive comfortably and safely. Your body’s strength, flexibility, reflexes, and coordination must all be working together when you drive your vehicle.

Driver Fitness

The ability to physically drive your vehicle safely is called driver fitness. Driver fitness can be different for each of us, but the important thing to remember is that even if you have a disability or physical ailment, you may be able to drive safely and successfully. You can make modifications and/or add special equipment to your vehicle to make it easier for you to drive.

If you have difficulty handling the physical challenges of driving, check with your primary care physician. They can assist you and/or put you in contact with occupational therapists, physical therapists, or driver rehabilitation specialists who can keep you in the driver’s seat for as long as you like.

Getting Around

It can be difficult when you are unable to drive, but the good news is that there are still many ways you can get around your city. Public transportation networks and paratransit services can help you maintain your independence and arrive safely at your destination so you can continue navigating your community with confidence.

You can explore alternate transportation options like:

  • Carpooling with family and friends
  • Taxi cabs
  • Shuttle buses or vans
  • Public buses, trains, and light rails
  • Local community-based services
  • Walking

For more information on personalized driver services in your community, take a look in the Yellow Pages under Community Services for Senior Citizens, Senior Organizations, or Transportation. You can also see if you have the following resources available in your area:

If you have impaired mobility due to losing use of your limbs or hands, or you have a diagnosed disease that negatively affects your mobility and you require the aid of an assistive device, you might qualify for a Disabled Person (DP) parking placard and/or DP license plates.

You may also qualify if you have specific, documented visual problems, including low-vision or partial-sightedness.

DP parking placards and license plates are available for people living with impaired mobility or vision conditions. Valid DP placard/license plates make you eligible to park in special spaces reserved for people with disabilities, which makes it easier for you to navigate public parking areas.

You can learn more about DP parking placards and license plates, including how to apply for one yourself, in the License Plates and Placards section.

Window decals are currently available for vehicles that have a wheelchair lift or carrier obstructing the view of the rear license plate. The decal has a white background with black numbers and/or letters matching the vehicle license plate configuration. You can place this decal on the rear window of the vehicle.

To request a decal, you must:

  • Have a disabled person placard.
  • Transport person(s) with a disabled person placard,.
  • Have a vehicle with disabled person license plates.
  • Have a vehicle with disabled veteran license plates.

To apply for a decal, visit the Plates, Decals, & Placards section.

Additional Safety Information

If you want to learn more about driver safety and how seniors can stay on the road longer, DMV has collected some additional resources to help you.

The Senior Guide for Safe Driving has information about everything discussed here, plus some additional safety tips and instructions to help you better prepare for driving tests.

From information on medical conditions affecting seniors to guidelines designed to support you as you have important conversations with your doctors, family, and friends, you can find a wide range of information through the resources linked below.

Senior Ombudsman Program

DMV’s Senior Ombudsman Program (SOP) aims to keep seniors driving for as long as they can do so safely.

The SOP represents interests of public safety for all Californians, with a special interest in addressing the concerns of senior drivers. If you have questions or concerns about how DMV can better support seniors, the SOP can serve as a “go-between” DMV and the public to ensure that senior drivers are treated fairly, consistent with laws and regulations and with the dignity and respect they deserve.

The ombudsmen assist in individual cases, as well as participate in outreach seminars to 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
  • San Francisco/Oakland: (510) 563-8998
  • Orange County/San Bernardino/San Diego: (714) 705-1588
  • Los Angeles/Oxnard: (310) 615-3552

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