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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 Virginia Department 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
Virginia drivers who are 80 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 DMV office. The renewal packet will tell you which method of renewal you are eligible for. In addition to taking a vision test every time you renew in person (see below), you may in certain situations be asked to take a written knowledge test as well. Further, if your license has been expired for more than a year, then you will be required to take the vision test, knowledge exam, and road skill test. In preparation for this, you can review the Virginia Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. Renewing license before the age of 80 can be done online, in person, or by mail.
THE VISION TEST
Most senior drivers in Virginia 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 DMV. 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 DMV.
The Virginia DMV's vision standard is 20/40 at least in one or both eyes and a horizontal visual field of 100 degrees or more for an unrestricted license. For a license restricted to daylight driving, you must have a vision of at least 20/70 and a horizontal visual field of 70 degrees of better. If you are blind in one eye, the good eye must have a visual field of at least 40 degrees temporal and 30 degrees nasal. If you do not meet the standard you will be issued a Customer Vision 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 Report of Vision Examination, completed by the vision specialist, back to your local DMV office. You can also ask your visual specialist to fax it over to (804) 367-1604 or (804) 367-0520 or mail to Medical Review Services of DMV.
- The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or another type of vision correction. Since the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will need to retest your vision, make sure to carry out the vision specialist's recommendations before returning to the DMV.
When you return to the DMV for another vision test, your Report of Vision Examination will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent DMV vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
For the safety of the drivers, Virginia DMV requires that the driver meets certain medical and mental requirements before getting licensed. If required, you may be asked to undergo evaluation by a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist.
If you have disabilities which will require special testing, you can contact the DMV.
If you have medical conditions that might interfere with your driving, then the DMV may request for a Customer Medical Report duly filled in by a physician and a vision specialist.
If a driver is felt incompetent or unsafe, the same can be reported to the DMV by submitting a Medical Review Request. Virginia DMV has a medical review process in place, which will be followed, and a decision to issue license with or without restrictions will be taken.
If you are a driver who is hearing impaired, your license will be marked to indicate the same.
THE DMV REEXAMINATION
A DMV 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 DMV 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 DMV 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.