Senior Driver: Getting A California Driver License

Since I’m a newcomer to California I needed to get a driver’s license. I was used to driving in some of the worst weather conditions in Alaska, but this California driving is pretty intense.  My children suggested that I go online to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make an appointment.  They said  without a DMV appointment it could cost me a lot of time waiting before being seen by someone so I made an appointment online.  When I arrived, I completed the paperwork, a DMV employee inspected my vehicle, then off to get the smog test, and back again to take the written test and the eye exam. I passed the written test with flying colors, but the eye exam was a problem for me in California.

I have 20/400 vision in my left eye so I was required to see an eye doctor to have him check my eyes and provide a certification that my legally blind eye will not get worse, has been this way since birth, and that it will never improve, and to prove that I had at least 20/40 vision in the right eye.  I went back to the DMV with my certificate in hand and was told that I now had to take a behind-the-wheel driving test before I could actually receive a license. A DMV road testing employee had to observe me while I was driving since I’m legally blind in my left eye.

I made another appointment for the driving test.  I got a viral infection the day of the appointment and had to cancel so I went online again and made another appointment.  I showed up and I was told that the behind the wheel driving tests were cancelled that day because access to the freeway was not open due to road work.  I made another appointment and went on my way, but first I was given a behind-the-wheel-driving-test manual that really came in handy.  I read it from cover to cover.  The day before the appointment, my sister called.  She and her husband were visiting from Alaska and were staying on the Queen Mary Hotel (the Queen Mary was a luxury ship built in the 1930s) in Long Beach.  They reserved rooms for my son and daughter and me for the night and they wanted us to spend the next day with them on the ship.  It was handy to just go online again to cancel my appointment the next day at the DMV and make a new one. Wow! I like this about the State of California DMV!

The day finally arrived and I showed up for the appointment.  The examiner was very nice and she explained the test to me.  She said that I could miss up to 20 items on the test but any more than that meant being retested.  I remember how I learned to drive so many years before while living in Alaska.  I moved to Alaska when it was a territory of the United States and it became a state in 1959 which brought new state regulations that people needed to be tested to receive the privilege of a new Alaska State driver’s license.

It was winter and I was working at a local television and radio station in Anchorage.  My father came to pick me up after work one night and told me that I had to drive home.  He also told me the next day I had to drive him to the airport as he had to fly out to the bush to work—he was iron worker.  He added, “By the way, in the morning too you will need to drive yourself to work and get a driver’s license on your lunch hour so you and your mother can get around.”  All I could think was, “Yikes!”  But I did it!  I drove him to the airport, drove to work, asked a co-worker to come with me to the DMV since I drove for the first time the night before; I couldn’t show up at the DMV driving my own car without a licensed driver in the car with me.  I took a written test and the behind-the-wheel driving test and received my new State of Alaska driver’s license.  Wow!  I was really thrilled.  I thanked my co-worker for coming with me because I needed to have a licensed driver in the car with me, when she exclaimed, “I don’t have a driver’s license.   I’ve never driven a car.  I walk to work.”

Well, back to 2013, I passed my California State behind-the-wheel driver’s test by the skin of my teeth—I missed exactly 20 items!  I went online to AARP Senior Defensive Driving Course, signed up, and paid my $15.  I really worked on the course and I passed the test!  I received my certificate and got a discount on my auto insurance!  All in all, it was a great experience and I had a lot of fun. Now, I feel like a real Californian with my new driver’s license!

What is your experience in getting a new driver’s license? Have you taken any courses for defensive driving? If you have, what did you think of the course? Do you recommend the course to others?

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