Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation in California

3/12/20 UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, all DMV hearings will be done over the telephone. People who prefer in-person hearings may request them, but they will be delayed indefinitely.

A supplemental driving performance evaluation (SDPE) is a driving test conducted by the DMV. The Department uses the test in its reexamination process to re-evaluate a person's ability to drive safely.

The SDPE is similar to the “Behind the Wheel” test the DMV administers to new drivers. But the evaluation focuses more on drivers with vision difficulties and medical conditions. The DMV has the authority to suspend a person's driver's license if he/she fails the evaluation.

Note that if the DMV suspends a license because a person failed a SDPE, the driver can:

  • request a hearing, and
  • try to challenge the Department's decision.

Our DMV hearing attorneys will discuss the following in this article:

man behind the wheel
A supplemental driving performance evaluation (SDPE) is a driving test conducted by the DMV.

1. What is a supplemental driving performance evaluation?

A supplemental driving performance evaluation is a driving test conducted by the California DMV.1

Sometimes the Department learns of a condition that may impact a motorist's ability to drive safely.

These conditions may include:

In this situation, the Department has the subject driver undergo an SDPE. The aim is to determine if:

  1. the driver poses a risk to traffic safety, and
  2. the motorist can drive safely enough to keep his/her driving privileges.2

SDPEs are often used to test the driving performance of elderly drivers. But the DMV can test drivers of all ages if they have a harmful medical condition.

The test itself is similar to the “Behind the Wheel” test the DMV administers to new drivers. This test is also referred to as the “Driving Performance Evaluation,” or “DPE.”

A main difference between the two tests, though, is that the supplemental test is geared more towards drivers with:

  • vision impairments, or
  • other physical or mental conditions that may affect their ability to drive.3

But like the DPE, the supplemental evaluation tests on:

  • backing up a car,
  • turning a vehicle,
  • parking lot driving,
  • intersection safety,
  • changing lanes,
  • parking,
  • freeway driving,
  • driving hazards, and
  • railroad crossing.4

A motorist also has to complete a safe driver checklist, which includes some tasks like:

  • locating the vehicle's controls,
  • safely starting the car,
  • performing defensive driving techniques, and
  • parking on a hill.5

2. What happens after a driver performs an evaluation?

A driving examiner writes a report after a motorist completes a SDPE. This examiner rides in the same vehicle as the subject driver during the completion of the test.

The report critiques and assesses the driver's performance of the evaluation. The report is then forwarded to a DMV hearing officer.

The officer reviews the report and then, based upon its findings, decides whether to:

  • suspend the motorist's driving privileges, or
  • allow the driver to keep his license.6

If a suspension, then the DMV sends the subject driver an Order of Suspension.

The basis for a suspension is often:

  • a physical or mental condition that hinders a person's ability to drive safely, or
  • the driver lacks the skill to drive.7

The DMV may allow a motorist to re-take a supplemental driving performance evaluation.

But the Department does not have to. The DMV typically allows a re-take if:

  • there is no immediate hazard to the public, and
  • the motorist appears to improve with each extra test.8
reexamination hearing
Fortunately, a driver can challenge a license suspension...

3. Can a driver challenge a suspension?

If the DMV suspends a license because a person failed an SDPE, the driver can:

  • request a DMV reexamination hearing, and
  • try to challenge the Department's decision.

A driver must request a hearing within 10 days of receiving the Order of Suspension.

A reexamination hearing is a DMV proceeding in which the Department re-evaluates a person's ability to drive safely.9

A driver wins a hearing by convincing the DMV that:

  1. he/she can drive safely, and
  2. he/she can do so despite a vision impairment or a medical condition.

At the completion of this hearing, a hearing officer may order:

  1. the reinstatement of a motorist's driving privileges (if previously removed),
  2. a driver medical evaluation,
  3. a medical probation,
  4. a restricted driving permit or license,
  5. a license suspension, or
  6. the revocation of a person's driving privileges.10

4. What happens during a reexamination hearing?

A reexamination is usually conducted in a DMV regional office.

The hearing is conducted by a “hearing officer.” This person is a DMV employee and is not:

  • a lawyer, or
  • a judge.

The hearing often includes two separate phases. These are the:

  • interview stage, and
  • hearing stage.

The interview stage is when the hearing officer interviews the subject driver. The officer asks questions concerning why the driver may no longer be able to drive safely. Depending on the answers, the hearing officer may:

  • suspend a person's license,
  • after the completion of the interview.

If a suspension occurs after an interview, then a hearing is scheduled. The hearing takes place within 14 days of the interview. The hearing is the driver's opportunity to show the DMV that:

  1. it should reverse the decision it reached at the interview, and
  2. the driver poses no risk to traffic safety.

A driver may present evidence of his/her safe driving during the hearing. This evidence may include:

  • medical records,
  • statements from friends and family,
  • test results, and
  • any relevant videos.

If the driver shows he/she can drive safely, the hearing officer may reverse its initial decision.

For additional help...

california traffic attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.


Legal References:

  1. See California DMV publication – “Preparing For Your Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation.”

  2. See same.

  3. See same.

  4. See same.

  5. See same.

  6. See same.

  7. See same.

  8. See same.

  9. California DMV website - DMV's Reexamination Process (FFDL 27).

  10. See same.

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