Driver’s License and Independence

The myth is: California teens want to get their driver’s license as soon as they turn 16.  It’s not that simple. I got my license when I was 22 (living in San Francisco and Berkeley, public transport is good and it is impossible to park, so why bother?).   My son-in-law has a license but neither my 23-year-old daughter nor 19-year-old son have progressed past the permit stage. Like me, my daughter graduated from college without a driver’s license.  In contrast, my husband got his license at age 14-1/2, growing up in Kansas farm country.

Driver’s licenses have been more a passionate subject for discussion with my parents than with my kids.  Before he passed away last year at age 85, my father lost his license after medical tests indicated that he could no longer driver safely.  He was bitterly resentful of this, and we in his family were grateful that the consulting doctor took some of the heat of my father’s anger and frustration. My father saw the license suspension as an assault on his independence.

It is surprisingly difficult to revoke a driver’s license. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has many web pages about senior driving safety and complex formal rules about how to evaluate driving competence. Clearly, there are many (unlike my kids) for whom a driver’s license is an essential indication of maturity and freedom.

If you are concerned about someone’s driving and want to request a formal evaluation, what Not To Do:

  • Phoning the DMV gets you into a phone-tree-hell from which nothing results.
  • Informal notes from doctors (even on doctor’s office stationary) get ignored – the DMV only responds to official forms and evaluations.
  • Going in person to the DMV just gets you into long lines – where you eventually are told that the DMV does not perform driver’s tests at the request of concerned family members.

What finally worked: a doctor submitting a signed “Request for Driver Reexamination” form to the DMV.

In considering this blog entry, I found a listing of over 100 songs about cars and driving. For fun, listen to Joan Joffe Hall reading her poem Driver’s License, one of many creative tributes to this complex public document.

Nowadays, I am the happy driver of a tiny Smart Car with a wrap that looks like party streamers. Recently, the kids at SMUM decorated around my car with sidewalk chalk, as if my car design was dripping onto the asphalt – the best kind of graffiti!

Smart Car with chalk drawings - SMUM - March 2012

Image Copyright 2012 by Katy Dickinson

1 Comment

Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews

One response to “Driver’s License and Independence

  1. Aunt Lou

    I wasn’t able to get my driver’s license until I was age 19, generally because no one wanted to teach me to drive. Daddy took me out once and I managed to run off the road. He told me to get my mother to teach me. My brother Rick finally took pity on me and taught me to drive but I think that it was mostly because we shared a car that our older brother Bobby had given us. I’m sorry to hear about all the problems Wade had over driving. Before I had cataract surgery, I was having the same problem with my independence being severely curtailed. ‘They’ say that nothing is as sure as death and taxes – but DMV is left out of that saying. No one in their right mind willingly deals with DMV! I hope that Jessie and Paul have a state ID card of some type-it just makes life easier. Love the car design! best, Lou

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