Restricted License

A restriction or condition is placed on a person’s driver license by the DMV when they believe that is necessary in order to ensure he/she is driving within his/her ability. Restrictions and conditions vary but may include:

  • Limiting when and where a person may drive
  • Requiring eye glasses, corrective contact lenses, or other physical devices, such as leg or arm prosthetics
  • Requiring the person to place special mechanical devices on his vehicle

Restrictions may be discretionary (imposed by the department) or mandatory (required by law). (California Vehicle Code Sections 12812, 12813, and 13800).  For senior drivers, most of the restrictions imposed relate to declining physical conditions. The most common physical restriction is related to vision because our vision declines due to physiologic changes of the eye along with an increased occurrence of certain vision diseases as we age.  Other physical and/or mental restrictions are imp osed when a person’s physical or mental health declines, and it the DMV believes that it is necessary to restrict driving.

Physical and/or mental conditions can affect a driver’s ability to drive safely:

Driving is an activity that requires that a number of cognitive skills be used in a complex and concurrent manner. These cognitive skills include memory, visual processing, attention, and the ability to analyze driving-related situations and to make appropriate decisions. Medical conditions and medications common to seniors may have an impact on cognitive abilities.

Muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and muscle reaction to stimuli are all important criteria required for the safe operation of a motor vehicle.  Age-related physical changes and musculoskeletal diseases (such as arthritis) may affect your ability to drive safely and comfortably.

Any restriction placed on your driver license will be based on a driving examiner’s findings and recommendations. The driving examiner will look at the results of your driving test, your vision test, and will consider your individual circumstances.

Sometimes a restriction is added because of volunteered information about a physical or mental disability. Often, though, a person with a physical or mental condition is referred to DMV by a family member, a doctor, or by law enforcement.

What are the most common restrictions for older drivers?

The number one restriction for senior drivers is vision-related and usually requires the driver to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses. Other common restrictions include, but are not limited to:

  • No freeway driving
  • Driving a vehicle with an additional right side mirror
  • Driving from sunrise to sunset (no nighttime driving)
  • Time of day restriction (for example, not during rush hour traffic)
  • Using adequate support to ensure proper driving position
  • Area restriction
  • Wearing bioptic telescopic lens when driving/restricted to driving from sunrise to sunset

A senior driver who is aware that his/her driving skills are diminishing will often restrict their driving on their own.  You may have already decided that you do not want to drive on certain roads or at certain times of the day. You may already stay off the freeway or only drive there during the day. These are also restrictions that the DMV could place on your driver’s license after a driving test and a discussion with you.  With a restricted driver license, you may be limited in the manner in which you can drive, but you still may be able to continue to drive under certain circumstances.