Q: I am worried about my dad, who is now in his 80s. He really should not be driving. Any suggestions?
- J.A., Long Beach
Answer: From a legal standpoint, there is no "cutoff" or maximum age for driving in California, but the Department of Motor Vehicles does monitor elderly drivers. Once an individual is 70 years of age, he or she can no longer renew a driver's license by Internet or mail. It must be renewed in person at the DMV. Attributes that will be carefully evaluated by the DMV are vision, hearing, physical coordination and mental state.
With regard to vision, the DMV utilizes a "wall chart" and, if you do not pass muster, then you must look into a machine that measures just how clearly you see small details. If you do not meet the DMV's minimum of 20-40 vision, you are required to see a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist who has to fill out a DMV "report of vision examination," which you bring back to the DMV. This gives you a sense of some of the challenges your dad may face in renewing his license.
Q: I was broadsided, and seriously injured. The other driver had a valid California driver's license. Only problem, she did not speak English! She's Vietnamese. I am not even sure she understood the traffic signal! Can anyone get a license in this state?
- D.N., Inglewood
A: No, not just anyone can get a license in California. True, the driver's license handbook is available in multiple languages (Spanish, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Tagalong, and Vietnamese). There is, however, an actual driving test that must be passed. You are required to take the driving test for a number of reasons, including if you have a vision-related problem, have never been licensed in any state, or you hold a license from a foreign country.
The driving test does not differ from one person to another, with the exception that a driver with a physical and/or mental condition may take a test that contains additional elements. The actual driving test is just one part of the criteria to get a license. There is, indeed, a written test as well that must be passed, and other criteria to be satisfied which you can read online at the website of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl-info.htm).
Rules of the road
You will find excellent resources online at www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/driver-handbook-toc.htm.
Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with more than 30 years of experience. His column appears on Wednesdays. Email questions and comments to him at RonSEsq@aol.com or write to him at Ask The Lawyer, Daily Breeze, 21250 Hawthorne Blvd., Suite 170, Torrance, CA 90503. This column is a summary of the law and not a substitute for legal consultation on any particular case.