In California, there are more than 9 million drivers over the age of 55—and 2.9 million of them are 70 or older. While the myriad rules and regulations enforced by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) apply to drivers of all ages and stages, the state imposes some special requirements and restrictions on older drivers.
California state rules are explained in more detail below, but a number of them focus on identifying and handling older drivers who may have become unsafe. Specifically, California:
Special rules apply to drivers who are 70 and older and seek to renew their licenses.
Time limits: Drivers age 70 and older must renew in person every five years.
Vision test: Required at in-person renewal. DMV personnel will conduct a test free, or drivers can have an exam performed by an outside ophthalmologist or optometrist, who must complete a Report of Vision Examination and conduct the exam within six months of the renewal request.
Written test: Required at in-person renewal.
Road test: Required only if there are indications of driver impairment, based on a report by a law enforcement officer, a physician, or a family member.
The physical and mental changes caused by aging can affect driving skills, though many seniors continue to be safe drivers as they age. To ensure some seniors can drive safely, the DMV might give you a restricted driver's license based on information shared by a doctor or family member, or following an accident.
The DMV can place restrictions or conditions on a person's driver's license after administering a driving test and discussing possible restrictions with him or her.
The most common restriction for older drivers is to require glasses or corrective contact lenses.
In California, other common requirements the DMV may impose on older drivers include:
The California DMV will accept information from the driver, courts, police, other DMVs, family members, and virtually any other source. While anonymous reports of unsafe driving will not be accepted, anyone can ask that his or her name be kept confidential, and the DMV vows to honor that confidentiality "to the fullest extent possible."
There are two ways to request that the DMV review driving qualifications:
California is one of only a few states that require doctors who diagnose a patient with a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness, Alzheimer‘s disease, or any other condition likely to impair driving to report that diagnosis to the local health department, which must forward it to the DMV. The DMV, in turn, has the discretion to pull the patient's license or require a driving test.
Drivers can improve their skills by taking an education and training class specifically developed for older drivers. Look for local course offerings called Mature Driver Improvement Programs.
For information on how to get back a license that has been suspended or revoked in California, contact one of the DMV Driver Safety Offices located throughout the state.
Disabled placards and plates are available for those who have:
Disabled person parking placards and license plates can be issued to California drivers who have impaired mobility if the condition is certified by a:
In addition, the following medical professionals can certify the need for a placard for certain types of disabilities:
You don't need a medical certification if you have lost both hands or a foot.
To obtain a disabled placard or plate:
California requires you to renew your permanent disabled parking permit every two years, but you can renew the placard online or through the mail.
The California DMV has a Senior Ombudsman Program aimed to keep older adults driving as long as they can do so safely.
The ombudsmen, located in several offices throughout the state, can help ensure that senior drivers are treated fairly and respectfully, and consistently with laws and regulations. They can assist in individual cases, and also conduct outreach seminars to groups aimed at promoting driver safety for seniors.
DMV Senior Ombudsmen are available at the following locations:
The DMV website has a wealth of information for California drivers, including links to the controlling laws and driver license handbooks in several different languages. Of special interest is the Senior Guide for Safe Driving, which includes advice on recognizing and assessing vision and cognitive impairment and conditions that may affect driving. Also see the DMV web page dedicated to Senior Drivers.
You can find the nearest DMV office through an online search of Public Offices by Location.
Updated June 30, 2023