Senior Drivers in Arkansas
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 numerous factors that can affect our driving skills, and hinder our ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The Arkansas Office 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
Arkansas drivers will receive a renewal notice which will mention if the license can be renewed by mail or in person, when a vision testing is required. Those who are 70 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 OMV office.
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 Arkansas Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. For faster service at the ODS, you can make an appointment by calling the office closest to you.
The Vision Test
Drivers in Arkansas will be sent a renewal notice, indicating whether the renewal can be done by mail or, if a vision screening is indicated, in person. Arkansas does not have the same provision for senior drivers to allow them to renew by mail.
By law, every licensee is required to undergo a vision screening once every 5 years, and senior drivers are required to get their vision tested every 2 years. Drivers 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 OMV. In addition, if you haven’t had your vision checked recently, or if you believe your eyesight has worsened, you are encouraged to make an appointment with your vision specialist before visiting the OMV.
The Arkansas Office of Driver Services has a set vision standard of 20/40 for unrestricted license. With glasses or corrective lenses, the vision must be 20/50. With two functional eyes, the expected field vision is 140 degrees. With one functional eye, drivers are expected to have a field vision of 105 degrees.
If you do not meet the aforementioned 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 Report of Vision Examination, completed by the vision specialist, back to your local OMV office.
- The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the Arkansas Department of Motor Vehicles will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist’s recommendations before returning to the OMV.
- If you are required to wear glasses during driving, ensure you wear them. If found driving without them, you may get a ticket.
When you return to the OMV for another vision test, your Report of Vision Examination will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent OMV vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
In the event that you fail the subsequent OMV vision test, you will need to take a driving test known as the ODS Re-examination (see below). This test is used to determine whether you can compensate for your vision condition while driving. Your driver license will be renewed if you pass this driving test.
The ODS Reexamination
The Office of Driver Services reexamination 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. The ODS re-examination may be recommended by a family member, physical or emergency medical technician, or peace officer. A driver may be identified to be unsafe by anybody concerned about road safety and reported to the ODS.
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 enroll in a driver’s education program or driving school for seniors to brush up their skills.
The re-examination involves the immediate evaluation of an individual by an OMV Driver Safety hearing officer. It consists of an interview, and may also involve a vision test, a written test, and/or a driving test.
If the driver does not follow through with the tests, the license will automatically be canceled. Following the re-examination, 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 a poor vision, but others which may be age-related include cognitive skills like memory, coordination and flexibility.
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.
- Drivers suspected of not being able to safely drive may have their license revoked or suspended. A notice will be sent from the ODS, and for reinstatement, a medical report should be submitted, and all driving license tests may need to be passed.