Driving Tests

DMV Driving Tests

As a senior driver being told you have to take a driving test probably makes you think you are about to lose your independence. This is not necessarily true! DMV does not have different licensing standards for senior drivers. It is an individual’s mental and/or physical condition or his/her inability to follow traffic laws and rules, regardless of age, that determines whether DMV renews, restricts, suspends, or revokes a driving privilege.

Senior drivers who are asked to take a driving test have usually:

  • Not met DMV’s minimum vision requirements, or
  • Been referred from a Driver Safety office because of a physical or mental (P& M) condition or lack of driving skill. Sometimes a law enforcement officer, your physician, or a relative or friend who is concerned about the way you are driving may refer you to DMV for a check of your driving ability.

It is important to remember that the DMV will likely issue a license to a customer who has a physical and/or mental condition if that person is able to demonstrate, during a driving test, that he/she compensates for the condition and can drive safely. The driving test you will be asked to take is called a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE). In certain situations, if the Supplemental Driving test is too difficult for your abilities, you have the option of taking an Area Driving Performance Evaluation (ADPE). You and the DMV examiner will pre-determine the driving test area and if you pass that driving test, your driver license will be restricted to that area.

What is the purpose of a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation?

When DMV asks a driver to take a Supplemental Driving test, it is to determine whether the driver:

  • has the ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.
  • has formed or retained the proper safe-driving habits.
  • can translate the knowledge of traffic laws into actual practice.
  • can compensate for any physical condition that might affect safe driving ability, such as poor vision, loss of a limb, or the early stages of dementia.
  • During your driving test, your examiner will note any driving skill deficiencies or behaviors that need improvement, but would not disqualify you from keeping your driver license. The examiner will discuss these issues with you when have finished your driving test.

Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation

The Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation test includes all the elements of a basic license driving test and some additional driving elements designed to evaluate a person’s cognitive function and safe-driving ability. These additional driving elements are:

  • Multiple directions – Your driving test examiner will give you two directions at one time. The examiner is checking to see if you understand and can properly follow both directions. For example, the examiner will ask you to “Change lanes to the left and at the next street, make a left turn.” You should be able to perform all the tasks necessary to make a safe lane change and turn into the proper lane at the next street.
  • Additional lane changes – Your driving test examiner will evaluate how you make lane changes. Do you signal properly and check for traffic in the lane into which you want to move (look over either your right or left shoulder)? Do you use your mirrors?
  • Concentration – Your driving test examiner will talk with you at certain times during your driving test. Distractions are common when driving, and the examiner is checking to see if you are able to respond briefly to these distractions without making any driving errors.
  • Freeway or highway driving – Your driving test examiner will ask you to merge onto a freeway and drive a short distance in freeway traffic.
  • IMPORTANT: If you absolutely do not wish to drive on any freeway, you should discuss this with the examiner. An option for you would be to have a “No Freeway Driving” restriction placed on your driver license, and you will not have to take this portion of the driving test.
  • Destination trip – Your driving test examiner will ask you to drive to a location about two blocks from the DMV office. The examiner will then ask you to drive back to the DMV office without any assistance or direction using the same streets you just used to get to your location. The examiner is checking for memory lapses and disorientation. This task is usually the last part of the Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation test.

Area Driving Performance Evaluation (ADPE)

What is the difference between an Area Driving Performance Evaluation and a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation?

If you do not pass your Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation test and, your driving test examiner determines that you may be able to drive safely within a clearly defined, but restricted area, he/she may suggest that you take an Area Driving Performance Evaluation test.

When you take an Area Driving Performance Evaluation test, you will be tested in a specific area pre-determined by you and your driving test examiner. This driving test will be based on your most important driving needs and is typically given in the area where you live. Your driving needs may also include trips to a grocery or department store, doctor’s office, bank, church, golf course, and hair stylist.

Area Driving tests are customized for each person. An Area Driving test route will be determined by the streets or roads you take to get from your home to a specific location and then back home. After you pass your Area Driving test and meet all other license requirements, you will be issued a restricted license. Your driver license restriction limits you to driving in a specified area, and you may not drive on any freeway.

If I have to take a driving test, how can I prepare for it?

If you need to take a driving test and are concerned about passing the first time, you may find it helpful to review the following information.

  • Do not be offended by what your observer tells you. You want your observer to be truthful.
  • Listen thoroughly to your observer’s remarks. Be open to suggestions. If your driving errors are correctable, you can, with practice, develop safer driving habits.
  • Consider your driving future carefully. If your observer tells you that he/she feels your driving skills have deteriorated to a point that it is no longer safe for you to drive, try not to get defensive or upset. Ask your observer for reasons and examples. Listen carefully to the reasons given and the examples cited. Use these to make an informed decision to either improve your skills to continue driving or to “retire” your driver license.

1. Review DMV information.
How to prepare for your driving test – This pamphlet covers what to bring with you for your driving test and what to expect during the driving test.

Parent-Teen Training Guide – Although this booklet was developed for teenage drivers, reviewing the driving practices will provide an overview of some driving skills you may not be aware of or may have forgotten.

2. Ask another driver to review your driving skills.
Ask a trusted younger driver (such as your adult child) to sit in the passenger seat and observe your driving. The observer should note any driving errors you make or any driving behaviors that would make a passenger feel unsafe. Your observer should critique your driving in a constructive and non-critical manner.

3. Practice, practice, practice
Once you identify areas for improvement, practice performing them correctly. If certain driving maneuvers or situations confuse you, ask your observer to review them with you. If you choose, you may take a Mature Driver Course which covers classroom instruction on defensive driving and California motor vehicle laws. You may also take behind-the-wheel driver instruction from a licensed driving school to help you improve your skills.