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 Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
LICENSE RENEWAL FOR SENIOR DRIVERS
Maryland does not place any restriction on age, after which drivers are expected to renew license at more frequent intervals. However, drivers who are 70 years of age or older at the time of applying for a license may be denied a license if:
- They have not previously had a Maryland license, or
- If they cannot prove their medical competence with a report from their physician.
Drivers can generally renew their license by mail or in person at a local MVA 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 Maryland Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. For faster service at the MVA, you can make an appointment by calling (800) 921-1117 or (800) 777-0133.
THE VISION TEST
All drivers in Maryland who renew their license in person or renew by mail will be asked to undergo a basic vision test to ensure they are able to safely operate a motor vehicle. If you are renewing by mail, you are expected to fill out the vision certification form and send it along with the completed form and required fee. If you wear eyeglasses, be sure to bring them with you to the MVA. 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 MVA.
The Maryland MVA's Vision Screening and Requirements expects a visual acuity of 20/40 in each eye and a field vision of 140 degrees. However, if your vision is at least 20/70 in each eye with a minimal visual field of 110 degrees, a restricted license may be issued. The MVA will screen your vision, and if you do not meet the standard you will be issued a Vision Screening Form 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 Vision Screening Form, completed by the vision specialist, back to your local MVA office.
- The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist's recommendations before returning to the MVA
When you return to the MVA for another vision test, your Vision Screening Form will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent MVA vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
A medical report can be filled out by a physician if deemed necessary to prove the driver's fitness. The Maryland MVA requires the driver to report certain medical conditions as soon as it is diagnosed either by email, phone, fax, or at any MVA office.
Hearing impaired can call (800) 492-4575 and inform the MVA of their impairment; any suitable modification required for driver testing will be arranged.
THE MVA REEXAMINATION
A MVA 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. A MVA reexamination may be recommended by a family member, physical or emergency medical technician, or peace officer. Drivers considered unsafe can be reported to the MVA customer service representative or directly to the Medical Advisory Board at (410) 768-7511. 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 MVA 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. 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 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. If found driving without the restrictions, then the license may be suspended or revoked. 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.
Once you feel you can manage without the restriction, you can fill out MVA Administrative Adjudication Division and get the restriction removed from your license.