Q: My license expires in January. Will I qualify for the year extension for senior drivers that is currently in place?
A: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Department of Motor Vehicles had put in place an automatic renewal program for drivers age 70+ whose licenses were set to expire between March and December 2020. This automatic renewal program ends this month.
However, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV) is giving a New Year’s gift with their announcement on December 9th that drivers age 70 and up can now renew their license online to help limit the number of customers coming in their offices.
Licenses for people age 70 and up that expire anytime beginning in March 2020 can now be renewed online. A mail-in option will be made available in the next few weeks, as well. Drivers under age 70 whose commercial licenses are expiring may try to renew online, as these options have been expanded. Even if your renewal notice states that you must go in person to renew, you can try the online options as many changes have been made after renewal notices were created.
To renew online visit https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/driver-licenses-identification-cards/driver-license-id-card-online-renewal/ If you do need to go to a field office in person, you can check the current wait times first on the website at https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/current-field-office-wait-times/
For people who did receive the automatic one-year extension, you can still go online and renew even before the one year has expired. This extension was automatic, and there will be no reminder renewal notice when it expires. Be sure to monitor these dates yourself and renew online early now that it is available.
These new online options will be available during California’s State of Emergency or until the order is modified. It is helpful that this effort recognizes the need to help protect our seniors and limit people’s in person interactions and exposure.
If you are a senior driver and have questions, there is a DMV Ombudsman program to assist you. This program is set up with a special interest in addressing the concerns of senior drivers. The DMV states that this role “ensures that senior drivers are treated fairly, consistent with laws and regulations, and with the dignity and respect they deserve.” Tressa Thompson is the Senior Ombudsman with the Department of Motor Vehicles who serves Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. She can be reached directly at 310- 615-3552.
There are times when you may need to use other transportation options. It is helpful to monitor your own confidence in driving and restrict your distances or restrict to daytime driving if needed. If you find you are unable to drive and need to understand your transportation options, you can call your city transportation program or call 211 and ask for transportation resources. 211 offers information and referral for all topics and there is one in both Los Angeles and Ventura County.
Maintaining our driver’s licenses can often cause stress because we rely on this license for our day to day errands and our freedom to get around. It is wonderful that our CA DMV understands the current barriers to the regular requirements of in person renewals after the age of 70. Take advantage of this temporary change and renew online as soon as you are able.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.