Senior Drivers in Alaska
In addition to being a convenience and an enjoyable activity for many people, driving is also a symbol of one’s independence. As we age, there are a numerous factors that can affect our driving skills, and hinder our ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
License Renewal For Senior Drivers
Alaska drivers who are 69 years of age or older at the time their current driver license expires are generally required to renew their license in person at a local DMV office by paying the required fee.
In addition to taking a vision test (see below), you may in certain situations be asked to take a written knowledge test as well. In preparation for this, you can review the Alaska Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal.
The Vision Test
Most senior drivers in Alaska who renew their license in person will be asked to undergo a basic vision test to ensure they are able to safely operate a motor vehicle. If you wear eyeglasses, be sure to bring them with you to the DMV.
In addition, if you haven’t had your vision checked recently, or if you believe your eyesight has worsened, we recommend that you make an appointment with your vision specialist before visiting the DMV. A certificate from a vision specialist stating your vision meets the standards could be submitted if you wish to not take the vision test at the DMV.
The Alaska DMV’s vision standard is 20/40 for an unrestricted license, with or without glasses. If you do not meet this standard you will be referred to a licensed vision specialist. Please note the following if you are referred to a vision specialist:
- The vision specialist (a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist) will perform a full vision examination and assess whether your eyesight permits you to drive safely. Bring the results of this visit, completed by the vision specialist, back to your local DMV office.
- The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist’s recommendations before returning to the DMV.
- When you return to the DMV for another vision test, your visual report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent DMV vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
- In the event that you fail the subsequent DMV vision test, restrictions may be imposed on your license. The restrictions could be with respect to the area you can drive, the speed limit or the hours of driving.
The DMV Reexamination
A DMV re-examination is when a person’s driving skills must be reevaluated based on one or more factors, including the driver’s physical or mental condition, or driving record. A DMV re-examination may be recommended by a family member, physical or emergency medical technician, or peace officer.
Other times, information in your license renewal application or on your driving record may prompt a re-examination. To prepare for the test, many older drivers choose to enrol in a driver’s education program or driving school for seniors to brush up their skills.
The reexamination involves the immediate evaluation of an individual by a DMV Driver Safety hearing officer. It consists of an interview, and may also involve a vision test, a written test, and/or a driving test. Following the reexamination, the hearing officer will decide whether any action should be taken regarding your driving privileges, such as restrictions, probation, suspension or revocation.
The Restricted Drivers License
Sometimes, a physical or mental condition can impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The most common of these conditions is poor vision, but others which may be age-related include cognitive skills like memory, coordination and flexibility. People with poor vision may have license with restrictions limited to speed, area, or hours of driving or a combination of these.
In some circumstances, older drivers may have a restriction placed on their driver license. The types of restrictions vary, and are based on the results of your vision test, driving test, and the driving examiner’s assessment. A restricted driver license is intended to ensure that you are driving within your abilities. Some of the most common license restrictions are those that:
- Require eyeglasses, corrective contact lenses, or bioptic telescopic lens to be worn at certain times.
- Permit driving from sunrise to sunset only, or prohibit driving during rush hour.
- Restrict the geographical area in which a person is permitted to drive, or prohibit freeway driving.
- Require special mechanical devices, or an additional side mirror on the vehicle.
- Require extra support in order to ensure a safe and correct driving position.
- Need a medical certificate for drivers with a history of seizures that they have been seizure free for at least the past 6 months.