The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) estimates that by the year 2030, one out of every five licensed automobile drivers will be 65 or older. Although the DMV may not discriminate against adult drivers because of age, the agency has the responsibility to make sure that all licensed drivers have the physical and mental abilities that enable them to drive safely.
Because of the normal aging process, older adults may lose some of the driving abilities that were present in their younger years. Warning signs include :
- Feeling uncomfortable, nervous or fearful while driving
- Drifting across lane markers or into other lanes
- Driving too slowly or too fast
- Having a hard time concentrating while driving
- Getting lost in familiar places
Even if one or more of these warning signs arise, the DMV may still issue licenses to those drivers who can demonstrate their ability to drive safely. For example, for those whose ability to see has deteriorated with the aging process, the DMV may choose not to revoke their licenses, but will restrict them from driving without glasses or corrective contact lenses.
Other common DMV restrictions for seniors with physical or mental impairments include :
- No freeway driving
- Driving only between sunrise and sunset, but not at night
- Time of day restriction (for example, not during rush hour traffic)
- Driving only to essential places, such as the doctors office, church or temple, or grocery store
One of the ways for drivers age 55 or older to make sure that their driving abilities remain secure is for them to take a DMV approved Mature Driver Improvement Course. In focusing on issues of senior driving, the course provides students with information which addresses:
- How impairment of visual and audio perception affects driving performance and ways to compensate for that impairment
- The effects of fatigue, medications and alcohol on driving performance, and precautionary measures that may prevent or offset ill effects
- Safe and efficient driving techniques under current road and traffic conditions
- How to plan travel time and select safe and efficient routes
The Mature Driver Improvement Course lasts at least six hours and 40 minutes, which may be scheduled in one or two sessions. Those drivers who successfully complete the course will receive a certificate of completion. When provided with that certificate, most automobile insurance companies will reduce the costs of premiums for a period of up to three years. By taking a renewal course when the three-year period is up, the certificate and insurance benefits may be renewed.
To locate the driver safety classes close to you, visit the California DMV’s Senior Driver website at dmv.ca.gov.