What is a Notice of Priority Reexamination?
Most often the mature driver will receive the “Notice of Priority Reexamination” from a Law Enforcement Officer at the scene of a traffic stop or automobile accident. If a police officer suspects that a driver has a physical or mental condition that creates an immediate hazard to the public, the officer will issue the notice. This is the most time sensitive of all the hearings conducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles. It triggers an immediate suspension of your driver license and only allows the driver 5-days to appear at the local Driver Safety Office to contest the suspension.
When a police officer issues the “Notice of Priority Reexamination” he is not supposed to seize the person’s driver license but often officers make a mistake in doing so. Also, police officers will sometimes allow a mature driver to leave the scene of a traffic stop or automobile accident without issuing the Notice and then the driver receives it in the mail a few days later.
Make no mistake, the DMV will completely suspend your privilege to drive if you do not act quickly. If you have received a “Notice of Priority Reexamination” from a police officer or through the mail, call CDA immediately. Our staff will drop everything and focus on you so you are prepared within 5-days to confront the DMV.
What is a Notice of Reexamination?
Similar to the “Notice of Priority Reexamination,” the “Notice of Reexamination” also means the DMV has reason to suspect you may be suffering from a lack of skill or a physical or mental condition causing you to be a dangerous driver. The Notice of Reexamination may be the result of the DMV receiving negative information about you from a variety of sources:
- Medical referrals from physicians or other medical professionals.
- Referrals from police officers that do not rise to the level requiring “Priority Reexamination.”
- Observations of DMV employees during the driver license renewal process.
- Referrals from friends or family members.
- Anonymous referrals.
- Your personal driving record… Too many accidents or too many citations.
In the case of the “Notice of Reexamination” the DMV will seek to examine you on a variety of levels to determine your competency to drive safely. Normally you will receive the “Notice of Reexamination” in the mail and will be permitted 10 to 14 days during which you must contact your local Driver Safety Office to schedule a reexamination. Because this is not a priority, it is common for the Driver Safety Office to set a date 30-45 days from the time you call. If you receive a Notice of Reexamination from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, call CDA immediately. We will contact the DMV on your behalf to set your date for reexamination. Then we will begin the process of preparing you for the numerous steps required to be successful at your hearing.
What is a DMV Administrative Hearing?
Essentially all hearings before the California Department of Motor Vehicles/Division of Driver Safety, are Administrative Hearings. This is because the hearings are run in accordance with the provisions of California Administrative Law. Under the category of Administrative Hearings, the DMV may conduct specific hearings in the areas of:
- Administrative Per Se
These hearings follow a person’s arrest for DUI.
- Negligent Operator
These hearings are for those drivers who accumulate too many points on their driving record for moving violations.
- Physical and Mental Hearings
These are the hearings conducted for the reexamination and priority reexamination of mature drivers.
- Fraudulent Activity
These hearings are for those persons who are thought to have obtained a driver license by fraudulent means or have used a driver license for fraudulent purposes.
- Financial Responsibility
These hearings are for those instances when a driver is found to have been operating a motor vehicle without auto insurance.
- Special Certificate
These hearings are for addressing issues where the DMV seeks to suspend or revoke the special certificates required by bus drivers, ambulance drivers, tow truck drivers, or other special vehicle operators.
In most instances, the mature driver will be participating in the Physical and Mental Hearing as a result of a reexamination or priority reexamination.
Is there a maximum age when the DMV will take my license?
No, there is no maximum allowable age for holding a California Driver License. Also, the DMV publicly announces they do not discriminate against or “focus” upon any particular age group. The truth, however, is much different. After the age of 70, California’s Mature Drivers are no longer allowed to renew their driver license by mail or email. After the age of 70, each time a driver renews his or her driver license, they must enter a local field office to apply for renewal.
This permits the personnel at the DMV to “evaluate” a mature driver’s ability to drive based solely upon what the DMV employee may see or hear during their brief contact with the driver. If a mature driver does not respond quickly to questions, is too slow standing up from a chair, or is a little unsteady on their feet, the untrained DMV employee can send a referral to the Driver Safety Office asking for a Reexamination.
Make no mistake, although the DMV publicly states that it does not focus upon older drivers, the fact is, you’re under a microscope.
What happens at a Reexamination Hearing?
The sole basis for calling you into a reexamination or priority reexamination is for the DMV to evaluate your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle on our public roadways. The person who runs the hearing and who sits in judgment of your driving privilege is the DMV Hearing Officer. In the world of the DMV, this person enjoys the power of a Superior Court Judge.
During the reexamination, the Hearing Officer may direct that a mature driver participate in any one, or all, of the following:
- Vision test
- Written driving skills test
- Behind the wheel, driving skills test
- Face to face interview with the Hearing Officer
- Completion and filing of a Drivers Medical Evaluation Form.
Once the reexamination has concluded, the Hearing Officer will evaluate all of the information gather and make a determination of your driving future.
What are my rights at a DMV hearing?
Before the DMV can take a suspension or revocation action against a person’s driving privilege, the department must notify the driver, in writing, of their intention to do so. The DMV must provide the driver with notification of why the action is being taken and that the driver has a right to contest the intended suspension. At an administrative hearing, you have the right to:
- Be represented by an attorney or any other representative of your choosing, at your expense. Unlike court, the DMV does not provide free legal representation.
- Be provided all of the evidence upon which the DMV is basing it’s suspension action.
- Present evidence, testimony, and witnesses or your behalf.
- Review, cross-examine, and rebut any evidence or witnesses against you.
If conducted correctly, your hearing should be run like a mini-trial. You are allowed to present your own witnesses and evidence. You are allowed to cross-examine police officers or other witnesses against you. You are allowed to rebut or explain the evidence the DMV possesses.
DMV Administrative Hearings are complicated and the laws governing the administrative hearing process are elusive and often contradictory. It is critically important that your case be prepared and argued in an appropriate and relevant format that the DMV Hearing Officer will accept and understand. Many times, incorrect assumptions are made by ill trained DMV personnel regarding the ability of senior drivers to safely operate a motor vehicle. Your representative from CDA will ensure that all of your “strengths” are highlighted and any “weaknesses” minimized so the hearing officer will rule in your favor.
What is the Vision Test?
Loss of adequate vision is one of the leading causes of mature drivers losing their driving privilege. Diabetes, macular degeneration, and cataracts are all factors that plague us as we age. Although we cannot reverse the aging process, we can adjust to our changing bodies and make the necessary changes allowing us to continue driving.
When renewing your driver license or during the course of a reexamination or priority reexamination, you may be required to perform a vision test. There are two varieties of tests commonly used at the DMV to test one’s vision:
- Wall Chart
This is the classic vision test that we all have seen at the DMV or at the Optometrist’s office. The mature driver simply recites the letters he or she sees on a chart.
- Vision Hood
This is a more elaborate device that examines each eye individually and as a working pair.
The DMV requires that each driver maintain a minimum vision standard of 20/40. If you pass the vision test with this minimum score, you will move on to the next testing sequence. If, however, you fail the vision test the DMV will require that you be seen by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to examine you and certify you for driving. This requires that the doctor prepare a Report of Vision Examination. You will be required to collect this from the doctor and return it to the DMV for consideration. Your doctor may require that you wear glasses or corrective lenses for driving. If after being certified for driving by a physician, you still cannot pass the DMV’s vision test, you will be permitted to take a “behind the wheel ” test. If you pass this test, the DMV will renew or reinstate your driver license subject to any restrictions imposed by your doctor.
If your vision is stable but subject to degradation, the DMV may elect to put you on medical probation requiring you to return to the DMV at periodic intervals to monitor your vision.
If your vision has deteriorated to a point that your doctor will not certify you for driving and if the condition cannot be corrected by glasses or lenses, the DMV will suspend or revoke your driving privilege.
What is the written test?
Just like the original test you took when you were 16 years old, the written test is designed to test your knowledge of the basic “rules of the road.” Today, the renewal test consists of 18 questions that are taken directly from the California Drivers Handbook.
The DMV has worked hard to accommodate the needs of California drivers. The English version of the written test is available in large print. The test is available in American Sign Language and in more than 30 different languages. If you have special needs, you can take the test by listening to a cassette tape or by having a DMV employee read the questions to you.
If you fail the test, all is not lost. You are permitted to challenge the test three times before being asked to reschedule to another date.
What is the behind the wheel test?
In the world of the DMV, there are two performance tests that may be used to evaluate the driving ability of a mature driver. The Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE) and the less challenging Area Driving Performance Evaluation (ADPE). Both of these performance tests are designed for the mature driver to actually perform the multi-faceted tasks of operating a motor vehicle. Normally, the performance evaluation is conducted in the mature driver’s own properly functioning and properly insured automobile while accompanied by a DMV evaluator. The DMV evaluator will sit in the passenger seat beside the mature driver with a clip board and ask a series of questions and give a series of driving commands that are designed to test a driver’s ability to process a variety of data simultaneously while operating a vehicle safely.
The Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE), is specifically used in the reexamination and priority reexamination of mature drivers who wish to regain or maintain full driving privileges on all California roadways.
The SDPE is by far the most challenging of the two performance evaluations. It is specifically designed to determine a driver’s ability to safely compensate or adjust to their physical or mental condition. In addition to demonstrating basic competency in driving, the SDPE is also designed to measure a mature driver’s ability to:
- Concentrate on driving while the evaluator is speaking and giving direction.
- Divide your attention by performing multiple tasks at the same time.
- Safely change lanes using mirrors, signals, and looking over the shoulder.
- Drive safely on the freeway when merging and at high speed.
- Be familiar and recollect the area where you are driving. The evaluators will often have drive several blocks from the DMV office and then challenge you to find your way back.
The Area Driving Performance Evaluation (ADPE), is specifically used in the reexamination and priority reexamination of mature drivers who wish to regain or maintain limited or restricted driving privileges within a specific geographical area near their home.
The ADPE is less challenging than the SDPE and allows the mature driver to conduct his or her drive test in an area where they are familiar with the road. By a prearranged agreement with the DMV evaluator, the mature driver will be evaluated when driving to specific areas of necessity such as his or her doctor or grocery store. For mature drivers of an advanced age, this may be a much better answer than trying to pass a test on the Southern California freeways.
Once the reexamination is done,what can the DMV do to me? Remember the only control the DMV has over you, is your privilege to drive. They cannot issue fines or penalties; only courts can do that and the reexamination process is not a court process.
Once the Reexamination or Priority Reexamination is concluded, the DMV has four options for dealing with your driving privilege:
- The DMV can decide that you have successfully demonstrated your ability to safely drive a motor vehicle and fully re-instate your driving privilege. This is known as a “Set Aside.” Essentially, the DMV decides to “set aside” any action against your driver license and you are immediately returned to full driving status.
- The DMV may decide to reinstate your driver license but may still have concerns that your physical or mental condition may change or deteriorate. In this case, the DMV may reinstate your driver license with specific restrictions. The most common restrictions for mature drivers are:
- Require that you wear corrective lenses or glasses when driving.
- Require that you limit your driving to specific locations near your home. Often this means you would not be permitted to drive on freeways.
- Require that you limit your driving to specific times of day. This often prevents the mature driver from driving during rush-hour or during the hours of darkness.
- Require you to equip your vehicle with special devices designed to enhance control of the vehicle. This may include special mirrors, steering wheel knobs, hand controls, etc.
- Require you to commit to a specific medical or psychiatric treatment regimen. This may require you to return to the DMV for periodic check-ups or to have your doctor file periodic medical reports.
- The DMV’s third option is to suspend your driving privilege. A suspension means you are not permitted to drive anywhere or at any time. If your physical or mental condition stabilizes or improves, you may apply to be reexamined. If you are then able to prove your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, your driving privilege may be fully reinstated or may be reinstated on a restricted basis.
- The DMV’s final option is the most difficult for mature drivers to adjust to. The final option available to the DMV Hearing Officer is to completely revoke your driving privilege. Normally the DMV will not take such a devastating action unless they firmly believe you no longer possess the ability to safely drive and that the ability to drive is not likely to return.