Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Safety For The Aging Driver

Generally, older drivers, especially over the age of 70, have more crashes per mile than any other group except teenagers and young adults. Also, it is more difficult for older drivers to recover from injuries suffered in a crash. If you are concerned about an aging driver, see "Referring An Unsafe Driver."

Health Problems Affecting Aging Drivers

Health problems in older adults cause slower reaction time, reduced vision and hearing, impaired body movement, and slower decision making. Health conditions such as glaucoma, arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., should be considered when making decisions about driving. In cases where a person’s driving must be restricted, DMV may issue a conditional license rather than revoking the person’s driving privilege.

Tips For Safer Driving

Be aware of the changes in your driving ability and that of your aging family members or friends. Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t drive at night, at dusk, or in bad weather conditions.
  • Use a seat cushion or talk to your vehicle dealer about extensions for brake and accelerator pedals or other vehicle modifications.
  • Make sure your windshield and headlights are clean to help reduce glare.
  • Make sure your eyeglasses have an up-to-date prescription.
  • Talk to your physician for recommendations to help you drive safely.
  • Take a Mature Driver Program training class. For a list of approved programs, go online at
  • Attend a driver assessment or rehabilitation program.
  • Never drink alcohol and drive because your body can be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, especially when combined with medications.
  • Consider using alternative means of transportation. Call your local Area Agency on Aging for a list of transportation providers in your area.

Referring An Unsafe Driver

If you are concerned that a family member, friend, or other person can no longer drive safely, write to the address below. You may also use the Request for Driver Reexamination (DS 699) located on DMV’s website. Provide the person’s name, birth date, driver license number and current address, and explain what you observed that led you to believe the person is an unsafe driver. The letter must be signed. Mail your letter to:

Driver Safety Actions Unit
M/S J234
P.O. Box 942890
Sacramento, CA 94290-0001

DMV will contact the person for a reexamination. A driving test will be given to the person when the:

  • Physician reports the person has lapses of consciousness.
  • Traffic officer requests a DMV review and the officer believes the driver is incapable of
    operating a vehicle safely.
  • Family member makes a good-faith report to DMV stating the driver cannot safely operate a vehicle.


You need good vision to drive safely. If you cannot see clearly, you cannot judge distances or spot trouble, so you won’t be able to do something about it. You also need to see peripherally or “out of the corner of your eye” to spot cars coming up beside you while your eyes are on the road ahead.

You may see clearly and still not be able to judge distances. You need good distance judgment so you know how far you are from other cars. Many people who may see clearly in the daytime have trouble at night. Some see poorly in dim light. Others may have trouble with the glare of headlights.

Have your eyes checked every year or two. You may never know about poor peripheral vision or poor distance judgment unless you have your eyes checked.


Hearing is more important to driving than many people realize. The sound of horns, a siren, or screeching tires can warn you of danger. Sometimes you can hear a car but you cannot see it, especially if it is in your blind spots.

Even people with good hearing cannot hear well if the radio, CD, or tape deck is blaring. While driving, do not wear a headset or earplugs in both ears.

Hearing problems, like bad eyesight, can come on so slowly that you do not notice them. Drivers who know they are deaf or hearing-impaired can adjust. They can learn to rely more on their seeing habits.


When you are tired, you are less alert. The body naturally wants to sleep at night and most drivers are less alert at night, especially after midnight. You may not see hazards as soon or react as quickly, so your chances of having a crash are greater. If you are sleepy, the only safe cure is to get off the road and get some sleep.

To keep from getting tired on a long trip:

  • Get at least a normal night’s sleep before you start.
  • Don’t take any drugs that can make you drowsy.
  • Don’t drive long hours and try not to drive late at night.
  • Take regular rest stops, even if you are not tired.
  • Keep shifting your eyes from one part of the road to another. Look at objects near and far, left and right.
  • Try chewing gum or singing along with the radio.
  • Roll your window down and get some fresh air.

If you are tired all the time and fall asleep often during the day, ask your physician to check for a sleep disorder.


Remember that all medications, prescription and over-the counter, are potentially dangerous. Over-the-counter medicines that you take for colds and allergies can make you drowsy and affect your driving ability. If you must take medication before driving, find out the effects of the medication from your physician or pharmacist. It is your responsibility to know the effects of the medications you take.

Before you decide to drive, do not:

  • Mix medications unless directed by your physician.
  • Take medications prescribed for someone else.
  • Mix alcohol with your medications. This applies to both prescribed and over-the-counter medications.

Health And Emotions

Your personality affects the way you drive. Don’t let your emotions interfere with safe driving. Use all of your good judgment, common sense, and courtesy when you drive and follow all the recommended safe driving rules.

Discuss poor vision, heart problems, diabetes, or epilepsy with your physician and follow his or her advice. Tell DMV if you have a condition that might affect your ability to drive safely.

Conditions Physicians Must Report

Physicians and surgeons are required to report patients at least 14 years of age and older who are diagnosed as having lapses of consciousness, dementia (mental disorders) conditions, or related disorders. (Health & Safety Code Section 103900.

Although not required by law, your physician may report any other medical condition he/she believes may affect your ability to drive safely.

alifornia Driver Handbook


Designated Driver Program

Designated Driver Program LogoThe Designated Driver Program is an anti-DUI effort that works. The program encourages one individual to abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages for an outing so that he or she can be responsible for transporting the other members of the group safely.

To participate as a designated driver, an individual:

  • Should be at least 21 years of age and must possess a valid driver license.
  • Must be part of a group of two or more persons and verbally identify himself or herself as the designated driver to the server.
  • Must abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages for the duration of the outing.
  • Must not be an otherwise impaired driver.
  • Must understand that management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone at anytime.
Diplomatic Driver License

Nonresidents who possess a valid diplomatic driver license issued by the U.S. Department of State are exempt from California’s driver licensing requirement.

Driving Schools

When learning to drive, you should seek qualified instruction either in bona fide public or private high schools or in state licensed professional driving schools.

Professional schools and instructors in California are licensed by the DMV after meeting rigid qualifying standards. Schools must carry liability insurance, be bonded, and maintain complete records for DMV inspection. Vehicles are subject to annual inspection. Instructors must pass a qualifying written examination every three years, or show proof of continuing education in the traffic safety field. If you use the services of a professional driving school, ask to see the instructor’s identification card.

Free ID Cards For P&M Conditions

Drivers who are no longer able to drive safely because of a physical or mental (P&M) condition may exchange their valid driver license for an ID card for no fee, if certain guidelines are met. Call 1-800-777-0133 for additional information.

Identification (ID) Card

DMV issues ID cards to persons of any age. To obtain an original ID card, you must present a birth date/legal presence verification document (more info) and provide your social security number. The ID card is good until the sixth birthday after it is issued. The fee for an ID may be reduced if you meet certain income requirements for specific public assistance programs.

Note: Governmental or nonprofit organizations determine whether an individual meets the requirements for a reduced -fee ID.

If you are age 62 or over, you may obtain a free Senior Citizen ID card good for 10 years.

California Driver Handbook


Mature Driver Program

The Mature Driver Program is an eight-hour course for drivers aged 55 and older. The course covers a variety of topics of special interest to the mature driver and is available from course providers approved by DMV.

Your insurance company may offer discounts for those who complete the class and receive a completion certificate . The certificate is valid for three years and can be renewed by completing a four-hour course.

Pedestrian Responsibilities*

Yield the right-of-way to vehicles when you:

  • Cross or walk where intersections or crosswalks are not marked.
  • "Jaywalk" across a street between intersections, where no pedestrian crosswalks are provided.

Remember: Making eye contact with the driver does not mean that the driver will see you or yield the right-of-way.

Do not suddenly leave a curb or other safe place and walk or run into the path of a vehicle close enough to be a danger to you. This is true even though you are in a crosswalk. The law states that drivers must take care for the safety of any pedestrian— but if the driver can’t stop in time to avoid hitting you, the law won’t help you.

Always obey traffic signals. Whether the intersection has pedestrian signals or the usual traffic lights, you must obey the pedestrian rules. (More information about pedestrians) At an intersection where traffic is not controlled by signals, drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to you within any crosswalk, marked or unmarked.

When a signal first changes to green or "WALK" for you, look left, right, and then left again, and yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection before the signal changed.

If the signal begins blinking or changes to "DON’T WALK," or to an upraised hand after you have gone part way across a divided street, you may continue across the street.

Do not stop or delay traffic unnecessarily while crossing a street.

Pedestrians are not permitted on any toll bridge or highway crossing unless there is a sidewalk and signs stating pedestrian traffic is permitted.

If there is no sidewalk, walk facing the oncoming traffic (see the picture below). Don’t walk or jog on any freeway where signs tell you that pedestrians are not allowed.

Pedestriams waking along a roadway.

At night, make yourself more visible by wearing white clothing and retro-reflective materials, or carrying a flashlight.

*Joggers must obey pedestrian rules.

Record Confidentiality

Most information in your driver license file is available to the public. Your residence address may only be viewed by authorized agencies. Your mailing address, if different from your residence, is less restricted.

Records on the physical or mental condition of a driver, however, remain confidential.

You may obtain a copy of your driving record at any DMV office for a fee and by providing valid identification.

Vehicle Theft Prevention Tips

If you follow the suggestions below, you can minimize your chances of becoming the victim of vehicle theft. In the United States, a vehicle is stolen an average of every 21 minutes. Vehicle theft costs the victim time and money and it costs society by increasing insurance premiums. Also, vehicle thieves often use the stolen vehicles to commit other crimes.

Vehicle thefts seem to occur more often where large groups of cars are parked for extended periods of time, such as shopping centers, colleges, sporting events, movie complexes, and large apartment complexes. Vehicle thefts can occur anytime—at random, on different days of the week and various times of the day.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid being the victim of vehicle theft:

  • Never leave:
    • your vehicle running and unattended, even to dash into a store.
    • the keys in the ignition or in the vehicle. Don’t leave them inside a locked garage or in hide-a-key boxes.
    • valuables in plain view, even if your vehicle is locked. Place them out of sight.
    • personal identification documents such as the ownership title or credit cards in the vehicle.
  • Always:
    • roll up your windows and lock your vehicle, even if it’s parked in front of your house.
    • park in high-traffic, well lighted areas, whenever possible.
    • report a stolen vehicle immediately to the police.
  • Suggestions:
    • Install a mechanical device that locks the steering wheel, column, or brakes.
    • Investigate the purchase of a vehicle theft tracking/security system, especially if you own one of the frequently-stolen model vehicles.
    • When you must leave your key with a valet, attendant, or mechanic, only leave the ignition key.
    • Copy your license plate and vehicle information on a card and keep that information with you. The police will need this information, if your vehicle is stolen.
Traffic Breaks

Traffic breaks are used by law enforcement for several reasons:

  • to slow or stop traffic to remove hazards from the roadway.
  • conducting emergency operations.
  • prevent traffic accidents in heavy fog or unusually heavy traffic.

During a traffic break, the officer turns on the rear emergency lights, slows the vehicle and drives across the lanes of traffic in a serpentine manner. To assist the officer in conducting a traffic break, follow these rules:

  • activate your emergency flashers to warn other drivers there is a hazard ahead.
  • slowly begin to decrease your speed. Do not slow abruptly unless it is necessary to avoid a collision. Slow to the same speed while keeping a safe distance from the patrol car ahead of you.
  • do not attempt to drive past the patrol vehicle. Do not accelerate until the patrol vehicle has turned off its emergency lights and traffic conditions ahead allow the return of normal speeds.

California Driver Handbook


Various types of traffic signs.

Various traffic warning signs.


Avoid Highway Gridlock

Dealing With Traffic Congestion

Small changes in your driving habits can help relieve chronic traffic congestion, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).

Avoid these driving behaviors:

  • Rubbernecking—slowing down to look at accidents or virtually anything else out of the ordinary.
  • Tailgating—following too closely.
  • Unnecessary lane changes— weaving in and out of freeway lanes.
  • Inattention—eating, grooming in the rearview mirror, talking on a cellular telephone, and reading the newspaper, etc.
  • Poorly maintained vehicles— vehicles malfunctioning or stalling on freeways or running out of fuel.
Dealing With Road Rage

Road rage happens when one driver reacts angrily to another driver. Some suggestions for avoiding road rage situations are:

  • Don’t cut off other drivers.
  • Don’t drive slowly in the left (fast) lane.
  • Don’t tailgate.
  • Don’t make gestures to other drivers.
  • Use your horn for emergencies only.

Prevent a potentially violent incident by:

  • Avoiding eye contact with an angry driver.
  • Giving an angry driver plenty of space.
Cellular Telephones

Cellular telephones can be a lifesaver in an emergency. In nonemergency situations, they can be a great tool if used properly. Use your cellular telephone in the following safe and responsible ways:

  • Drive to the side of the road to use your cellular telephone.
  • Use hands-free devices.
  • Have your phone within easy reach.
  • Don’t use the telephone during hazardous conditions.
  • Pay attention to the road.
  • Be sensible about dialing.
  • Don’t engage in distracting conversations.
  • Use your phone to call for help.

NOTE: Beginning July 1, 2008, with certain exceptions, you may not use a cellular telephone while driving unless hands-free equipment is used.

California Driver Handbook

Avoid Highway Gridlock - Accident Avoidance

Keep Your Car Visible

The driver’s blind spots are shown below. You cannot see vehicles in these blind spots if you only look in your mirrors. Turn your head to see if a car is in one of these blind spots. Drive through another driver’s blind spot as quickly as you can or drop back.

Shaded areas represent driver's blind spots
Diagram showing passenger vehicle's blind spots.

What Is The Road Like

The faster your speed, the less control you have of your car. Rather than driving at the legal posted speed limit, consider what else may affect the safe operation of your car. For example, should you drive 35 mph (the posted speed limit) on a curve down an icy mountain road? Many inexperienced drivers do not adjust their driving speed for each road’s conditions. That is one reason why inexperienced drivers have more “out-of-control” accidents than experienced drivers.


On curves, there is a strong outward pull on your vehicle especially when the road is slippery. Rain, mud, snow, or gravel make the road slippery. If a speed limit is not posted before a curve, you must judge how sharp the curve is and change your speed. Slow down before you enter the curve. Braking on a curve may cause you to skid.

Water On The Road

Slow down when there is a lot of water on the road. In a heavy rain at about 50 mph, your tires can lose all contact with the road and then your vehicle will be riding on water or “hydroplaning.” A slight change of direction or a gust of wind could throw your vehicle into a skid. If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, slow down gradually—don’t apply the brakes.

Slippery Roads

Slow down at the first sign of rain. This is when many roads are the most slippery because oil and dust have not been washed away. A slippery road will not give your tires the grip they need. Drive more slowly than you would on a dry road. Adjust your speed as follows:

  • Wet road—go five to ten miles slower.
  • Packed snow—reduce your speed by half.
  • Ice—slow to a crawl.

Some road surfaces are more slippery than others when wet and usually have warning signs. Here are some clues to help you spot slippery roads:

  • On cold, wet days, shade from trees or buildings can hide spots of ice. These areas freeze first and dry out last.
  • Bridges and overpasses tend to freeze before the rest of the road does. They can hide spots of ice.
  • If it starts to rain on a hot day, the pavement can be very slippery for the first several minutes. Heat causes oil in the asphalt to come to the surface. The oil makes the road slippery until it is washed off.
Driving In Heavy Traffic

Drive slower in heavy traffic because you have less room. Drive slower so you can stop in the distance you have.

As a general rule, drive more slowly:

  • In shopping centers, parking lots, and downtown areas.
  • On roads with heavy traffic.
  • When you see brake lights coming on several vehicles ahead of you.
  • Over narrow bridges and through tunnels.
  • Through toll plazas.
  • Near schools, playgrounds, and in residential areas.
Traffic Speeds

Accidents are more likely to happen when one driver goes faster or slower than other cars on the road.

If you drive faster than other traffic, you will have to keep passing other cars. Each time you pass another car, there is more risk of an accident. True, it may not be a big risk, but if you are passing one car after another, the risks begin to add up. Studies have shown that speeding does not save more than a few minutes in an hour’s driving.

Driving slower than other cars or stopping all of a sudden can be just as bad as speeding. It tends to make cars bunch up behind you and it could cause a rear-end crash. If many cars are passing you, move into the right lane and let them pass.

California Driver Handbook

Avoid Highway Gridlock - Handling Emergencies

Skids On Slippery Surfaces

A road that is normally safe can become dangerous when it’s slippery. Ice and packed snow on the road can cause your car to skid, especially if you are driving too fast or going downhill. If you start to skid:

  • ease off the gas pedal,
  • stop braking, and
  • turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid.

If you can’t control your car on a slippery surface, try to find something to stop you. Try to get a wheel on dry pavement or on the shoulder of the road. You may have to edge slowly into a snow bank or some bushes to stop.

To prevent skidding on slippery surfaces:

  • Drive more slowly and stay farther behind the vehicle ahead.
  • Slow down as you approach curves and intersections.
  • Avoid fast turns.
  • Avoid quick stops. "Pump" the brakes to slow or stop. (Do not pump antilock brakes.)
  • Shift to low gear before going down a steep hill.
  • Avoid especially slippery areas, such as ice patches, wet leaves, oil, or deep puddles.

If the brakes get wet, dry them by lightly pressing the gas pedal and brake pedal at the same time so that the car drives against the pressure of the brakes. Do this only until the brakes dry.

Acceleration Skids

An acceleration skid usually happens when the drive wheels lose traction on the road surface. To maintain control of the vehicle, do not apply the brakes. Ease off the gas pedal and straighten the front wheels as the vehicle begins to straighten out.

Locked Wheel Skids

This type of skid is usually caused by braking too hard at a high rate of speed and locking the wheels. The vehicle will skid no matter which way the steering wheel is turned. Take your foot off the brake to unlock the wheels. Then straighten the front wheels as the vehicle begins to straighten out. Slow the vehicle gradually until you are at a safe speed to continue driving.

Steering Wheel Locking Device

Never turn your vehicle’s ignition to the "lock" position while it is still in motion or the steering will lock and you will lose control of your vehicle.

Causes Of Accidents

The most common causes of accidents are:

  • Unsafe speed
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Improper turns
  • Violation of the right-of-way rules
  • Violation of stop signals and signs

California Driver Handbook

Avoid Highway Gridlock - Accidents

If you see a vehicle’s hazard lights ahead, slow down. There may be an accident or other road emergency ahead. Stop and give assistance if asked, or pass very carefully.

Avoid driving near accidents, if you can. Those injured will be helped faster if other vehicles aren’t blocking the road. If you must drive near an accident, don’t slow down or stop just to look. You may cause another crash. Drive by carefully, watching for people in the road.

It is against the law to follow closely behind any fire engine, police car, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle with a siren or flashing lights.

Never drive to the scene of an accident, fire, or other disaster to look. You may be arrested for doing this. You may also block the way for police, fire fighters, and ambulances.

Obey any order from a police officer or fire fighter even if you need to ignore normal traffic laws or signs.

Involved In An Accident

If you are involved in an accident:

  • You must stop. Someone could be injured and need your help. If you don’t stop, you may be convicted of "hit and run" and could be severely punished.
  • Call 9-1-1, if anyone is hurt.
  • Move your vehicle out of the traffic lane, if no one is injured or killed.
  • Show your driver license, registration card, evidence of financial responsibility, and current address to the other driver or persons involved, or to any peace officer.
  • You (or your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative) must make a written report to the police or CHP within 24 hours of the accident if someone is killed or injured.
  • You (or your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative) must make a written report to DMV within 10 days, if required. (More Information about financial responsibility and accident involvement)
  • Leave a note with your name and address in the car or securely attached to it if you hit a parked vehicle or other property. Report the accident to the city police or, in unincorporated areas, to the CHP.
  • Find the owner and report to authorities as mentioned above, if your parked vehicle rolls away and hits another vehicle.
  • Call the nearest humane society or call the police or CHP, if you kill or injure an animal. Do not try to move an injured animal or leave an injured animal to die.

California Driver Handbook

Actions That Result in Loss of License - Financial Responsibility - Insurance

Financial Responsibility

California’s Compulsory Financial Responsibility Law requires every driver and every owner of a motor vehicle to maintain financial responsibility (liability coverage) at all times. There are four forms of financial responsibility:

  • A motor vehicle liability insurance policy.
  • A deposit of $35,000 with DMV.
  • A surety bond for $35,000 obtained from a company licensed to do business in California.
  • A DMV issued self-insurance certificate.

You must carry written evidence of financial responsibility whenever you drive and you must show it to a peace officer after a citation stop or accident. You may have to pay a fine or have your vehicle impounded if you don’t.


Insurance Requirements

The law states you must be financially responsible for your actions whenever you drive and for all motor vehicles you own. Most drivers choose to have a liability insurance policy as proof of financial responsibility. If you have an accident not covered by your insurance or you have no insurance, your driver license will be suspended. If the driver is not identified, the owner of the motor vehicle involved will have his or her driver license suspended.

The minimum amount your insurance* must cover per accident is:

  • $15,000 for a single death or injury.
  • $30,000 for death or injury to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for property damage.

Call 1-800-927-HELP before you purchase insurance to make sure your agent/broker and insurer are licensed by the California Department of Insurance.

If you are visiting California, or have just moved here, be aware that many out-of-state insurance companies are not authorized to do business in California. Before you drive here, ask your insurance company if you are covered in case of an accident. If you have an accident in California, all three of the following conditions must be met to avoid suspension of your driving privilege:

  1. Your liability policy must provide bodily injury and property damage coverage which equals or exceeds the limits stated above;
  2. Your insurance company must file a power of attorney, allowing the DMV to act as its agent for legal service in California; and
  3. You must have insured the vehicle before you came to California. You cannot renew the out-of-state policy once the vehicle is registered in California.
Reporting The Accident

When you have an accident, report it to DMV within 10 days if:

  • More than $750 in damage was done to the property of any person.
  • Anyone was injured (no matter how slightly) or killed.

Each driver (or the driver’s insurance agent, broker, or legal representative) must make a report to DMV using the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California form (SR 1). The CHP or police will not make this report for you. Call 1-800-777-0133 and ask for the SR 1 or go online at

You must make this report:

  • Whether or not you caused the accident and
  • Even if the accident occurred on private property.

Your driving privilege will be suspended:

  • If you don’t make this report.
  • For four years, if you did not have proper insurance coverage. During the last three years of the suspension, your license can be returned if you provide a California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22) and maintain it during this period.
Accidents On Your Record

Every accident reported to DMV by:

  • Law enforcement shows on your driving record unless the reporting officer says another person was at fault.
  • You, or another party in the accident, shows on your record if any one person has over $750 in damage or if anyone is injured or dies.

It does not matter who caused the accident, DMV must keep this record.

Accidents, Insurance, and Minors

If you are under 18 years of age, your parents sign your license application and assume financial responsibility for your driving unless they ask DMV to cancel your license. When you reach age 18, your parents’ liability automatically ends.

If you are involved in an accident you may be liable for civil damages and you may also be fined.

*Low cost automobile policies are available in Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Stainslaus counties. Please contact your insurance agent.

Actions Resulting in Loss of License - Drinking While Driving

Drinking And Driving Is Dangerous

You lose your judgment when you drink alcohol or use drugs. It is often the first thing about you that changes. Loss of judgment, or good sense, affects how you react to sounds, what you see, and the speed of other vehicles around you. It takes about an hour for the body to get rid of each “drink.” If a person has had more than one drink an hour, one hour of “sobering up” time should be allowed for each extra drink. Better still, someone who has not been drinking should drive. (See information about the Designated Driver Program.)

Drugs And Driving

Much of what has been said about alcohol also applies to drugs. California’s drunk driving law is also a drug driving law. It refers to “driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.” If an officer suspects that you are under the influence of drugs, the officer can require you to take a blood or urine test. Drivers who refuse these tests are subject to longer license suspensions and revocations. Anyone convicted of possessing, selling, or manufacturing illegal drugs is subject to a six-month suspension.

The use of any drug (and the law does not distinguish between prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs) which impairs your ability to drive safely is illegal. Check with your physician or pharmacist and read the warning label if you are not sure you should drive after taking any medication. Here are some facts:

  • Most drugs taken for colds, hay fever, allergy, or to calm nerves or muscles can make a person drowsy.
  • Medicines taken together, or used with alcohol can be dangerous. Many drugs have unexpected side effects when taken with alcohol.
  • Pep pills, “uppers,” and diet pills can make a driver more alert for a short time. Later, however, they can cause a person to be nervous, dizzy, and not able to concentrate. They can also affect vision.

Any drug that “may cause drowsiness or dizziness” is one you should not take before driving. Make sure you read the label and know the effects of any drug you use.

Carrying Alcohol In A Vehicle

The law is very strict about carrying alcohol or drugs in a vehicle whether the vehicle is on or off the highway. You must not drink any amount of alcohol in any vehicle.

A container of liquor, beer, or wine carried inside the vehicle must be full, sealed, and unopened. Otherwise, it must be in the trunk or in a place where passengers don’t sit. Keeping an opened alcoholic drink in the glove compartment is specifically against the law.

In a bus, taxi, camper, or motor home, the law does not apply to non-driving passengers.

Refer to the Designated Driver Program

Drivers Under 21 (Possession of Alcohol)

If you are under 21 years of age:

  • You may not have beer, wine or liquor in your vehicle unless accompanied by a parent or other person specified by law. Exception: You may carry alcoholic beverages while working for someone with an off-site liquor sales license.
  • You may not have an alcoholic beverage in your possession in your vehicle. If you are caught with an alcoholic beverage in your vehicle, it may be impounded for up to 30 days. The court may fine you up to $1,000 and either suspend your driving privilege for one year or require DMV to delay the issuance of your first license for up to one year, if you are not already licensed.
  • Your driving privilege will be revoked for one year, if you are convicted of either driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01% or higher or driving while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. On the first offense you will be required to complete the educational portion of a licensed driving-under-the-influence (DUI) program. A subsequent offense may require a longer DUI program and you will not have a restricted license to attend the DUI program.
Drivers of All Ages

It is illegal to drive after consuming excessive alcohol in any form (including medications such as cough syrup), or taking any drug (including prescription medications), or using any combination of alcohol or drugs.

BAC Limits

It is illegal for any person to operate:

  • a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher.
  • any vehicle requiring a commercial driver license (with or without a CDL issued to the driver), with a BAC of .04% or higher.
  • a motor vehicle with a BAC of .01% or higher, if the person is under age 21.
  • a motor vehicle with any measurable BAC, if the person is under age 18.

A court may suspend the driving privilege of a person under 21, delay issuance of a license to a person who does not have a license, or require DMV to revoke a person’s driving privilege for DUI violations.

DMV can take an administrative action against your driving privilege after you are arrested and the court may take a separate action (suspend, revoke or delay the license) for the same offense. DMV’s action is related only to your driving privilege. The court’s action may involve payment of a fine, jail time, suspension or revocation of your driving privilege, and completion of a DUI program.

Similar provisions apply when you operate any vessel, aquaplane, water skis, or similar devices. (Harbors and Navigation Code) These convictions are placed on your driving record and will be used by the court to determine “prior convictions” for motor vehicle DUI sentencing. These convictions are also used when determining the length of a suspension or revocation action or the reinstatement requirements because of a violation you committed while driving a motor vehicle.

Actions Resulting in Loss of License


*If you use an attorney, the cost is even greater.



There is no safe way to drive while under the influence. Even one drink can make you an unsafe driver.

Drinking alcohol affects your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). It is illegal to drive with a BAC that is .08% or more (.04% or more if you drive commercial vehicles; .01% or more if under 21). However, a BAC below .08% does not mean that it is safe or legal to drive. The charts below show the BAC zones for various numbers of drinks and time periods. Remember: “One drink” is a 1 1/2-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor (even if mixed with non-alcoholic drinks), a 5-ounce glass of 12% wine, or a 12-ounce glass of 5% beer. These “one drink” equivalents change if you are drinking ale, malt liquors, fortified wines, port, brandy, different proof liquor, or if you are drinking on an empty stomach, are tired, sick, upset, or have taken medicines or drugs.

Text Alternative for this BAC/DUI Chart

HOW TO USE THESE CHARTS: Find your weight chart. Then, look for the total number of drinks you have had and compare that to the time shown. If your BAC level is in the grey zone, your chances of having an accident are 5 times higher than if you had no drinks, and 25 times higher if your BAC level falls in the black zone.

BAC Zones 90 to 109 lbs. 110 to 129 lbs 130 to 149 lbs. 150 to 169 lbs.
Time from 1st drink Total Drinks Total Drinks Total Drinks Total Drinks
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 hr

2 hrs

3 hrs

4 hrs

BAC Zones 170 to 189 lbs. 190 to 209 lbs. 210 lbs. & Up
Time from 1st drink Total Drinks Total Drinks Total Drinks
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 hr

2 hrs

3 hrs

4 hrs

Technical note: These charts are not legal evidence of actual BAC. Although it is possible for anyone to exceed the designated limits, the charts have been constructed so that fewer than 5 persons in 100 will exceed these limits when drinking the stated amounts on an empty stomach. Actual values can vary by body type, sex, health status, and other factors.


(.01%–.04%) Possible DUI—Definitely unlawful if under 21 years old

(.05%–.07%) Likely DUI—Definitely unlawful if under 21 years old

(.08% Up) Definitely DUI*

*VC §§ 23152, 23153, 23136, 23140 DUI = Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs

Actions Resulting in Loss of License - Admin Per Se, Court DUI Convictions


When you drive in California, you consent to take a test of your breath or blood or, under certain circumstances, your urine if you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both.

Under 21 – Zero Tolerance for Alcohol Use. If you are under 21 you must submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) or one of the other chemical tests if you have been detained and a peace officer has reason to believe you were drinking alcohol. If your BAC measures .01% or a higher on the PAS, the officer may take your license, issue you a temporary license for 30 days, give you an order of suspension for one year, and then determine whether to release you, turn you over to juvenile authorities, or to contact your parents. You may request a DMV administrative hearing within 10 days.

If your PAS showed a BAC of .05%, the officer may require you to submit to either a breath or blood test. Some PAS devices provide a record which may be submitted in court as evidence. Other PAS devices do not provide a record, so the officer may ask for a breath or blood test after the PAS. You do not have a right to consult with a lawyer before selecting or completing a test.

If a subsequent test reveals a BAC of .05% or higher, the officer will issue you an order of suspension, arrest you for DUI (VC §23140), and detain you until you can be turned over to your parents or juvenile authorities. If your BAC is .08% or higher, the peace officer may arrest you. (VC §§23152 or 23153)

If the officer reasonably believes you are under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs and you have already submitted to a PAS and/or a breath test, you may still be required to submit to a blood or urine test because the breath test does not detect the presence of drugs.

If you refuse to submit to any of the tests, your driving privilege may be suspended for the refusal. Even if you change your mind later and agree to a test, your driving privilege may be suspended for both reasons, although both actions will run concurrently.

Court DUI Convictions

If you are convicted of driving with excessive BAC or while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs or both (DUI), you may be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail and to pay a fine between $390 and $1000 (plus about three times the fine in penalty assessments) the first time you are convicted. Your vehicle may be impounded and subject to storage fees.

On the first conviction the court will suspend your driving privilege for six months and require you to complete a DUI program before you can be reinstated. The length of the program may vary. If your BAC was .15% or higher and you already had a record of violations for other reasons or you refused to submit to a chemical test, the court may order you to complete a nine-month or longer program. If your BAC was .20% or higher and the court refers you to an enhanced DUI treatment program, your license will be suspended for 10 months.

In cases involving serious injury or death, you may be punished under California’s Three Strikes Law. You also could face a civil lawsuit. All DUI convictions will remain on DMV’s records for ten years and the courts and the DMV may impose more stringent penalties for subsequent violations during that period.

A BAC below legal limits does not mean that you are safe to drive. Almost all drivers show impairment by alcohol at levels lower than the legal limit. The impairment you exhibit at the time you are stopped may be enough to convict you of driving under the influence even without a BAC measurement.

Drivers 21 and Older—DUI Programs and Restricted Licenses

Completion of a DUI program is required for all DUI convictions.

Generally, if you are over 21 and enroll in a DUI program, file a California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22), pay the restriction and reissue fees, DMV will issue you a restricted driver license which allows you to drive to/from work and during the course of employment (unless you hold a commercial driver license) and to/from a DUI program. However, if you would be considered a “traffic safety” or “public safety risk” if permitted to drive, the court may order DMV not to grant you a restricted driver license. Other actions against you may also prohibit the issuance of a restricted license.

Second and subsequent DUI convictions result in increased penalties, including a two-year suspension or a revocation of up to four years. After you complete a prescribed period of your suspension/revocation and either enroll in, or complete a portion of, a DUI program, you may obtain a restricted license to drive anywhere necessary if you:

  • install an IID on your vehicle.
  • agree not to drive any vehicle without an IID.
  • agree to complete the prescribed DUI program.
  • file an SR 22.
  • pay the reissue and restriction fees.
Actions Against An Adult's License

If you are stopped by a police officer and cited for a traffic law violation, you sign a promise to appear in traffic court. When you go to court, you may plead guilty or not guilty, or you may forfeit (pay) bail. Paying bail is the same as a guilty plea.

If you ignore the traffic ticket and don’t keep your promise to appear in court, the failure to appear (FTA) goes on your driver record. If you fail to pay a fine (FTP), the court will notify DMV and this will also show on your driver record. Even one FTA or FTP can cause the department to suspend your license. Ending the suspension will cost you a reissue fee of $55.

Each time you are convicted of a moving traffic law violation, the court notifies the DMV and the conviction is placed on your driver license record. Convictions reported by other states are also added to your driver record.

Points on The Driver Record

DMV keeps a public record of all your traffic convictions and accidents. Each occurrence stays on your record for 36 months or longer, depending on the type of conviction.

You may be considered a negligent operator when your driving record shows any one of the following "point count" totals regardless of your license class:

4 points in 12 months
6 points in 24 months
8 points in 36 months

Some examples of one point violations:

  • A traffic conviction.
  • An at-fault accident.

Examples of two point violations:

  • Reckless driving or hit-and-run driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs
  • Hit-and-run driving
  • Driving while suspended or revoked

If you get too many "points," you will lose your driver license. A violation received in a commercial vehicle carries one and one-half times the point count normally assessed.

Actions Resulting in Loss of License - Actions Against The Provisional License

Teenagers as a group average twice as many accidents as adult drivers, while driving only half as many miles. This makes the teenage accident rate per mile four times as great as that of adult drivers.

Studies show that the traffic deaths of new drivers is a deadly combination of their inexperience, their lack of familiarity with their car, and their need to push themselves and their vehicle to the limit.

Traffic Violations Increase Accidents

Nearly half of the drivers between ages 15 and 19 are convicted of a traffic violation in their first year of driving.

Speeding (which often results in loss of vehicle control) is the most common moving violation for
teenage drivers. About 50% of all their traffic convictions are speed violations.

When you violate traffic laws, you increase your chances of having an accident.

Teenage Traffic Deaths

Drivers 15 to 19 years old have very high traffic accident, injury, and conviction rates. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. If you are under 18 years old, your risk of a fatal accident is about 2½ times that of the “average” driver. Your risk of an injury accident is three times higher than the average driver.

Keeping The Provisional License

DMV will be watching your driving record and will take actions based upon any accidents or violations as follows:

  • If you get a traffic ticket and fail to appear in court, DMV will suspend your driving privilege until you appear in court.
  • If you get a traffic ticket and fail to pay the fine, DMV will suspend your driving privilege until you pay the fine.
  • If you have one "at fault" accident or conviction within 12 months, DMV will send you a warning letter.
  • If you have a second "at fault" accident or conviction (or combination of both) within 12 months, you cannot drive for 30 days unless accompanied by your parent or other licensed adult who is at least 25 years of age.
  • If you have a third "at fault" accident or conviction (or any combination) within 12 months, you will be suspended for six months and be placed on probation for one year.
  • If you have additional "at fault" accidents or point count convictions while you are on probation, you will be suspended again. (Traffic law violations resolved in Juvenile Court are also reported to DMV.)
  • If you are convicted of using alcohol or a controlled substance and you are between the ages of 13 and 21, the court tells DMV to suspend you for one year. If you don’t have a driver license yet, the court tells DMV to make you wait a year longer before you can apply for a license. You can also be required to go to a DUI program.

Any restriction, suspension or probation will continue past your 18th birthday for its full term.

Other, stronger actions can be taken if your driving record justifies them. Remember, when your driving privilege has been suspended or revoked, you may not drive in California with any license or permit.

Vandalism/Graffiti—All Ages

California law allows the courts to suspend the driver license for two years of a person convicted of engaging in vandalism, including graffiti. If you are convicted and do not have a license, the courts can delay the issuance of a license for up to three years from the date you are legally eligible to drive.

Speed Contests/Reckless Driving

A person convicted of driving recklessly or engaging in a speed contest which causes bodily injury to another person is subject to:

  • imprisonment in a county jail or state prison for a minimum of 30 days to six months
    • a fine ranging from $220 to $1000 or
    • both fine and imprisonment

(VC §23105 and VC §23109.1)

Evading a Peace Officer

Any person who willfully flees or attempts to evade a peace officer performing his/her duties is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year. (VC §2800.1)

If a person is convicted of causing serious bodily injury during the course of a police pursuit (VC §2800.3[a]), he/she is subject to:

  • imprisonment in a state prison for three, five, or seven years or in a county jail for not more than one year
  • a fine of not less than $2,000 nor more than $10,000
  • both a fine and imprisonment

If a person is convicted of killing anyone during the course of a police pursuit (VC §2800.3[b]), he/she is subject to imprisonment in a state prison for four, six, or ten years.

Habitual Truant—Persons Age 13 To 18

The court will suspend, restrict, delay, or revoke your driving privilege for one year if you are convicted of being a habitual truant from school.

Possessing Firearms

The court will:

  • Suspend or revoke the driving privilege of any minor convicted of possessing a concealable weapon or live ammunition or
  • Impose driver license sanctions for minors convicted of misdemeanors involving firearms.

Actions Resulting in Loss of License

Traffic Violator School Dismissals

When a driver is cited for a traffic violation, the judge may offer the driver the opportunity to attend a Traffic Violator School. Drivers who do not have a commercial license may participate once in any 18-month period to have a citation dismissed from their driving record this way.

NOTE: If you have a commercial license and attend traffic school the citation will still appear on your driving record regardless of the type of vehicle you were driving when cited.

Suspension Or Revocation By DMV

If you get too many negligent driver points, DMV will place you on probation for one year (which includes a six month suspension) or revoke your driving privilege. Your suspension or revocation order informs you of your right to a hearing.

At the end of the suspension or revocation period, you may apply for a new license and you must show proof of financial responsibility.

DMV will revoke your license if you are convicted of hit-and-run driving or reckless driving which results in injury.

Suspension By Judge

A judge may suspend a person’s license if convicted of the following:

  • Breaking speed laws or reckless driving.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Hit-and-run driving.
  • Engaging in lewd conduct and prostitution in a vehicle within 1000 feet of a residence.
  • Assaulting a driver, passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian when the offense occurs on a highway (road rage).
  • Failure to stop as required at a railway grade crossing.
  • Felony or misdemeanor offense of recklessly fleeing a law enforcement officer.

Regardless of point count, many serious offenses in which a vehicle is used are punishable by heavy penalties such as fines and/or imprisonment.