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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 Maine Bureau 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
Maine drivers can renew their license every 6 years or 8 years until their 65th birthday. Drivers who are 65 years of age or older can only renew their license for 4 years. You can generally renew their license by mail or online via Rapid Renewal unless you:
- Do not have a digital license.
- Have a commercial driver's license.
- Need a vision screening.
- Need to report a change in your medical condition.
- Have changed your name since last renewal.
- Have turned 23 and have a new digital photo taken.
- Have an out-of-state license.
- Are renewing a suspended license.
Because of these reasons, you may be required to renew your license in person at a local BMV office. Your vision needs to be checked during the first renewal after you turn 40 and at every alternate renewal until the age of 62. After 62 years of age, vision test is performed at every renewal. 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 Maine Driver Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal.
THE VISION TEST
Most senior drivers in Maine 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. The test may be undertaken at the BMV at no cost or you can choose to get your vision checked by a vision specialist of your choice at your own expense. If you wear eyeglasses, be sure to bring them with you to the BMV. 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 BMV.
The Maine BMV's vision standard is 20/40 and better as outlined in the Functional Ability Profiles (page 30). The driver should have no diplopia and a visual field of at least 150 degrees. If you do not meet the standard you will be referred to a licensed vision specialist. Please note the following if you are referred to a vision specialist who will perform a full vision examination and assess whether your eyesight permits you to drive safely. Bring the report back to your local BMV office.
When you return to the BMV for another vision test, your report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent BMV vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
A driver with any medical known condition should inform the BMV of the same and a medical examination report submitted. If the driver has an illness that is included in the Functional Ability Profiles, then the BMV can deny, reject, or suspend a license. Any cardiovascular, respiratory, visual, emotional, metabolic, or neurological disease or alcohol or substance abuse needs to be reported to the BMV. Being on any medication that might have an effect on driving also has to be reported. Alternately, a driver can also surrender his license if he considers himself not fit for driving due to physical, emotional, or mental reasons.
If you have a history of seizures and are on medications, you cannot drive until you have been totally off medications for at least 3 months.
If required, you can contact the BMV and schedule a test with special accommodations to aid you medical disability.
If you are hearing impaired, you may be asked to use rearview mirrors and additional warning lights when driving.
THE BMV REEXAMINATION
A BMV 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 BMV reexamination may be recommended by a family member, physical or emergency medical technician, or peace officer. A driver can be reported incompetent to the BMV by calling (207) 624-9000 ext. 52124. 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 BMV 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 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.