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 Michigan Secretary of State wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
LICENSE RENEWAL FOR SENIOR DRIVERS
Michigan drivers who are 65 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 SOS office. Alternate license renewals have to happen at the local SOS 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 Michigan Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. Contact the Michigan SOS on (888) 767-6424 for any queries.
THE VISION TEST
All senior drivers in Michigan 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 SOS. 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 SOS.
The vision standard set by Michigan SOS is 20/40 and a peripheral vision of 140 degrees or less for an unrestricted license. If you do not meet the standard, you will be issued a Vision Specialist's Statement of Examination 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 Statement of Examination, completed by the vision specialist, back to your local SOS office.
- The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the Michigan Secretary of State will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist's recommendations before returning to the SOS.
When you return to the SOS for another vision test, your vision report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent SOS vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
Michigan drivers are expected to meet certain physical standards before obtaining a license, failing which restrictions may be placed on the license. Restriction could be related to the hours of driving or the places of driving. The driver may appeal if he does not find the restriction to be appropriate. The SOS may request that a medical form be submitted if not confident of the driver's abilities.
THE SOS REEXAMINATION
A SOS 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. Submit a Request for Driver Evaluation form or write to the Secretary of State explaining your concerns about a particular driver being unsafe. The driver may be asked to undergo a vision test, medical examination, and/or skills test. An assessment will be made if the driver needs restriction or should not be allowed to continue driving. If the driver refuses to undergo testing, the license will be revoked immediately. A SOS reexamination may be recommended by a family member, physical or emergency medical technician, or peace officer. You may receive a Request for Priority Reexamination from a peace officer in which case you must appear for the retest within 5 days. 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 SOS Driver Safety hearing 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.