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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 Iowa Department of Transportation wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
LICENSE RENEWAL FOR SENIOR DRIVERS
Iowa drivers 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 DOT office or at the local County Treasurer's office. After 70 years of age, the license is renewed only for a 2-year period. 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 Iowa Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. For queries, you can call (515) 239-1101.
THE VISION TEST
All senior drivers in Iowa 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 DOT. 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 DOT.
The Iowa DOT's vision standard is 20/40 and the peripheral vision less than 140 degrees binocular. All drivers will be subjected to a vision screening with Optic Vision Equipment by the Driving License Examiner. If the examiner feels there are obvious eye defects or if you need correction of vision, then you will be issued a [ application forms] and 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 DOT office.
- The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the Iowa Department of Transportation will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist's recommendations before returning to the DOT
When you return to the DOT for another vision test, your Driver Visual Acuity Report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent DOT vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
Older drivers with medical conditions such as diabetes, seizures, heart disease, or other conditions should provide a medical report indicating their ability to drive safely. Night vision might be a problem and you might chose to limit your night driving. Drivers with a history of seizures should have been seizure-free for at least 6 months before resuming driving. Furthermore, if you are on medications which can affect your alertness, extra caution is required.
THE DOT REEXAMINATION
A DOT reexamination may be given 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 DOT reexamination may be recommended by a family member, physical or emergency medical technician, or peace officer. If you are considered an incompetent driver, you may be reported to the DOT. Other times, information in your license renewal application or on your driving record may prompt a reexamination.
The reexamination involves the immediate evaluation of an individual by a DOT authorized officer. It consists of an interview, and may also involve a vision test, a written test, and/or a driving test. 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 Senior Driver Workbook published by the DOT also helps refresh knowledge. Following the reexamination, the hearing officer will decide whether any action should be taken regarding your driving privilege, such as restrictions, probation, suspension or revocation.
THE RESTRICTED DRIVER 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.
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. Restriction may either be on the type of vehicle you are allowed to drive, special mechanical controls, or restrictions pertaining to operating the vehicle. 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.