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 New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
LICENSE RENEWAL FOR SENIOR DRIVERS
New Jersey drivers of all ages, at the time their current driver license expires, are required to renew their license in person at a local MVC office. In addition to taking a vision test (see below) which is mandatory for all applicants, you may in certain situations be asked to take a written knowledge test as well. There are no restrictions on senior drivers in New Jersey. In preparation for the test, you can review the New Jersey Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. For any queries, you can call the MVC at (609) 292-6500 or toll free in NJ (888) 486-3339 Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
THE VISION TEST
All senior drivers in New Jersey 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 MVC. 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 MVC.
The New Jersey MVC's vision standard is 20/50 with or without correction. If corrective lenses are required to meet this standard, this would be mentioned on the license. If you do not meet the standard you will be referred to a licensed vision specialist.
When you return to the MVC for another vision test, your vision report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent MVC vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
New Jersey MVC has a Medical Review unit which performs medical check-ups if required to evaluate drivers who might be unsafe. If deemed necessary, a Medical Evaluation Request may be placed. If a driver has experienced a medical emergency, the same has to be reported to the MVC by a form to:
Medical Fitness Review Unit
P.O. Box 173
Trenton, NJ 08666-0173
The same can also be faxed to (609) 292-7504. For any queries, you can reach the Medical Review Unit at (609) 292-7500, extension 5032.
For drivers with a seizure history, after a medical report review, the examiner will determine if the license needs to be revoked, restricted, or unrestricted. A license revoked because of seizures will be reinstated after you have been seizure-free for at least one year. A medical documentation would also be required.
THE MVC REEXAMINATION
An MVC 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. An MVC 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 an MVC approved 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.