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 Washington Department of Licensing wants older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.
LICENSE RENEWAL FOR SENIOR DRIVERS
Washington drivers have no restrictions based on age alone. Drivers can either renew their license in person at a local DOL office or online if you are eligible. Every alternate renewal has to be done in person. 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 Washington Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal. For license-related queries, you can contact the DOL on (360) 902-3900 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have applied for a license renewal but not received one, you can write to email@example.com.
THE VISION TEST
Drivers in Washington 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 DOL.
The Washington DOL's vision standard is 20/40 at least in one or both eyes with or without correction with a combined horizontal visual field of 110 degrees. If you do not meet the standard you will be referred to a licensed vision specialist.
When you return to the DOL for another vision test, your vision report will be reviewed. If you pass the subsequent DOL vision test, your driver license renewal will be granted (with a corrective lens restriction, if necessary).
When you apply for a license and at the time of renewing it, you will be asked specific questions about history of loss of consciousness, seizures, or blackout episodes. If you are found to have a condition which might interfere with driving, you will be asked to undergo a complete medical evaluation.
Drivers with a history of seizure should have been seizure-free for at least 6 months before they can resume driving.
There are no restrictions for drivers who are hearing impaired.
THE DOL REEXAMINATION
A DOL 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 DOL 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. Unsafe drivers can be reported to the DOL by submitting a Recommendation for Driver Re-examination to:
Department of Licensing
PO Box 9030
Olympia, WA 98507-9030
The reexamination involves the immediate evaluation of an individual by a DOL 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.