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 Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Department of Driver and Vehicle Services wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
LICENSE RENEWAL FOR SENIOR DRIVERS
Minnesota has no restrictions for drivers beyond a particular age. Minnesota drivers of all ages are required to renew their license only in person at a local DDVS 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 Minnesota Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. There is no option of making an appointment to visit the DDVS.
THE VISION TEST
Most senior drivers in Minnesota 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 DDVS. 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 DDVS.
The Minnesota DDVS's vision standard is 20/40 with or without vision and a peripheral vision of 105 degrees, and if you do not meet the standard you will be issued a Visual Acuity report 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 Visual Acuity Report, completed by the vision specialist, back to your local DDVS office.
- The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the Minnesota Department of Public Safety will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist's recommendations before returning to the DDVS.
When you return to the DDVS for another vision test, your Visual Acuity Report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent DDVS vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
Minnesota DDVS contains various forms online to enable drivers to report medical conditions that may interfere with driving. There are forms to report Diabetes, Seizure or Loss of Consciousness, etc. A driver may also voluntarily surrender his license if he deems himself unsafe for driving. A list of at-risk conditions is also identified, which might make a driver unsafe. If any driver is found incompetent, they may be reported to the DDVS with personal and vehicular details.
THE DDVS REEXAMINATION
A DDVS 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 DDVS reexamination may be recommended by a family member, physical or emergency medical technician, or peace officer. 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 DDVS 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. If you have medical conditions and might need special accommodations during your driving testing, you can contact Driver and Vehicle Services at (651) 297-3298 or (651) 282-6555 for the hearing impaired.
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.