Can I lose my California driver’s license because of cataracts or macular degeneration?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jul 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

The California DMV can suspend or restrict a license due to a driver's cataracts or macular degeneration. But it may only do so if the condition actually affects a driver's ability to drive safely.

And even when driving ability is affected, cataracts and macular degeneration don't always result in a lost license. Sometimes a driver can still drive safely with:

  • Medical treatment, 
  • Driver safety classes, and/or
  • Restrictions on when and/or where the driver drives. 

How does the DMV find out I have cataracts or macular degeneration?

The DMV can learn about a medical condition affecting vision in several ways:

  • The driver self-reports the condition on an application for a driver's license renewal,
  • The driver does poorly on a vision test at the DMV,
  • The driver's doctor reports the condition to the DMV (legally required),
  • A concerned friend or family member confidentially (and optionally) reports a concern to the DMV, or
  • A judge or law enforcement officer notifies the DMV of concerns about the driver.

But note that with the exception of a healthcare professional, none of these is required to report a driver's vision problem to the DMV.

What happens when the DMV learns I have cataracts or macular degeneration?

The DMV will not usually suspend or revoke a driver's license immediately on learning about a possible vision problem. It will only do this if it believes the driver represents an immediate danger.

More typically, the DMV will conduct a “reexamination” of the driver (also known as a “P&M hearing.”)  During this hearing, the DMV will determine whether a driver has the physical and mental skills to drive safely. To do this, the hearing officer may:

  • Ask the driver about his/her driving history or any specific incidents on the driver's record,
  • Take testimony from the driver and/or his or her doctor, and
  • Have the driver take a vision test in front of the hearing officer.

Depending on what this reveals, the hearing officer may do any of the following:

  • Let the driver keep his or her license without restriction,
  • Require the driver's condition to be monitored more closely,
  • Place reasonable restrictions on the when or where the person can drive,
  • Suspend the driver's license temporarily, or
  • Permanently revoke the driver's license.

Drivers have the right to appeal the hearing officer's decision. They may also be represented by a lawyer (at their own expense) during any stage of the process.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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