California Driver Handbook - Driver Readiness

Safety for the Aging Driver

The department has published a handbook specifically for senior drivers. Please go online at www.dmv.ca.gov to view or download a copy of the Senior Guide for Safe Driving (DL625), or call 1-800-777-0133 to request a copy to be mailed or contact the Senior Driver Ombudsman Program in your area:

Los Angeles/Central Coast Counties
(310) 615-3552

Northern California/Sacramento Counties
(916) 657-6464

San Diego/Orange Counties
(714) 705-1588

San Francisco/Oakland & Bay Areas
(510) 563-8998

Good Vision for All Drivers

You need good vision to drive safely (see vision section). If you cannot see clearly, you cannot judge distances or spot trouble, and you will not be able to make the best judgments. You also need to see peripherally or “out of the corner of your eye” to spot cars coming up beside you while your eyes are on the road ahead.

You may see clearly and still not be able to judge distances. You need good distance judgment so you know how far you are from other cars. Many people who may see clearly in the daytime have trouble seeing clearly at night. Some people see poorly in dim light. Others may have trouble with the glare of headlights.

Have your eyes checked every year or two. You may never know about poor peripheral vision or poor distance judgment, unless you have your eyes checked by a healthcare professional.

Hearing

Hearing is more important to driving than many people realize. The sound of horns, a siren, or screeching tires can warn you of danger. Sometimes you can hear a vehicle but cannot see it, especially if it is in your blind spots.

Even people with good hearing cannot hear well if the radio or CD player is blaring. Do not wear a headset or earplugs in both ears while driving; it is against the law.

Hearing problems, like bad eyesight, can come on so slowly that you do not notice them. Have your hearing checked periodically. Drivers that are deaf or hearing-impaired can adjust their driver safety habits by relying more on their seeing sense and therefore, compensate for the loss of hearing.

Alertness

When you are tired, you are less alert. Although most drivers are less alert at night; daytime tiredness can be just as dangerous. You may not be able to see hazards or react as quickly as when you are rested and alert; so, your chances of having a crash may be greater.

Symptoms of fatigue may include:

  • Difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open.
  • Having trouble keeping your head up.
  • Not remembering driving the last few miles.
  • Drifting between lanes, tailgating, or missing traffic signs.
  • Delayed reaction times or jerky and sudden motions.

To keep from becoming tired on a long trip:

  • Get a normal night’s sleep before you start on your trip.
  • Do not take any drugs that can make you drowsy.
  • Do not drive long hours; try not to drive late at night.
  • Take regular rest stops even if you are not tired.
  • Keep shifting your eyes from one part of the road to another. Look at objects near and far, left and right.
  • Try chewing gum or singing along with the radio/CD.
  • Roll your window down to get some fresh air.
  • Alternate drivers.

If you are tired all the time and fall asleep often during the day, ask your physician to check for a sleep disorder.

Medications

Remember that all medications, prescription or over-the-counter, are potentially dangerous and can impair your driving. Over-the-counter medicines that you take for colds and allergies can make you drowsy and affect your driving ability. If you must take medication before driving, find out the effects of the medication from your physician or pharmacist. It is your responsibility to know the effects of the medications you take.

Before you decide to drive, do not:

  • Mix medications, unless directed by your physician.
  • Take medications prescribed for someone else.
  • Mix alcohol with your medications(prescribed or over-the-counter).

Health And Emotions

Your personality affects the way you drive. Do not let your emotions interfere with safe driving. Use all of your good judgment, common sense, and courtesy when you drive. Follow all the recommended safe driving rules.

Discuss health concerns such as poor vision, heart problems, diabetes, or epilepsy with your physician and follow his or her advice. Notify the DMV if you have a condition that might affect your ability to drive safely.

Conditions Physicians Must Report

Physicians and surgeons are required to report patients at least 14 years of age and older who are diagnosed as having lapses of consciousness, Alzheimer’s disease, or related disorders (California Health & Safety Code §103900).

Although not required by law, your physician may report to the DMV any other medical condition that he or she believes may affect your ability to drive safely.

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