Heart Talk

Share this:

I’m 70 and I Have to Do What?


By James Utt
By James Utt

One can’t argue with the state of California and what it makes those entering their eighth decade of life do to keep driving. But, for a worrier like me, it causes sleepless nights. If you are 70 or over when your current license expires, you must drive to the DMV, take a vision test, have a new photo taken, and pass an 18-question knowledge exam.

These are perfectly reasonable things to require. We should make sure those on the road can see well enough to drive. The picture on your license should actually look like you do now. I have gotten so many automatic renewals that my photo is so old I can see pimples on it. But the written test, oh, dear lord. To the best of my recollection, I have not taken that since I got my initial learner’s permit in 1963.

Two friends who recently took this exam said at least half of the people around them failed. I have been known to choke or falter in certain pressure situations, like when serving for the set or, painfully, on a first date. But I vowed to not only pass the test, but get a perfect score.

Before that could happen, I had to secure an appointment at the DMV. Woe to those who just show up as a “walk in” for they will know eternal wait. Calling the DMV two months before my license was to expire, a nice woman asked where I would like to take the test. Living in Laguna Beach, I thought Laguna Hills made sense. She said there was an opening on Sept. 23. That was exactly one month after my current license expired.

“What’s your second choice?” she asked.

“San Clemente,” I said hopefully.

“Good selection. Just had a cancellation. You’re set for July 11.

Instantly, studying the California Driver Handbook became an obsession, as did taking the practice tests online. I could not fail. Would not fail. I relearned all that had been forgotten.

What is the difference between a white curb and a yellow curb?

What is the speed limit when approaching a blind intersection?

When should you dim your headlights when a car is approaching you?

Who has the right of way at a four way stop if both cars arrive at the same time?

You may not leave a child under the age of _____ alone in a parked car.

Your car stalls on the railroad tracks and a train is coming. After exiting the car, in which direct should you run?

Have trouble with any of these? Then you better get a hold of the handbook if your knowledge test is coming up.

The more I studied the rules, the more I noticed how many people in Laguna do not obey them. This holds especially true at four-way stops and signaling before making a turn.

At last July 11 came. I was at breakfast with some retired teachers and one said, “Remember, hands kept at 10 and 2.”

“No,” I practically shouted. “That has changed. It is 9 and 3, or even 8 and 4.”

When I arrived at the DMV in San Clemente, there were no parking spaces available. There was a line out the door 30 yards long. These were the lost souls who had not made an appointment. My appointment entitled me to a priority number and I sat down next to a young lady who looked very frazzled.

“I got here an hour before this place opened and I’m still here,” she said. It was now 2:30 p.m.

“Boy, that’s really too…” Just then I hear my number called. “Sorry, that’s me.” I wonder if she is still there.

I was not only getting my driver’s license renewed, but also applying for the “Real I.D.” license that will allow me to board planes after October 2020. I had to present my passport, utility bill and social security card. Next came the eye test. At last, I was directed to the computer where I would take the knowledge test.

The compulsive studying paid off. 100 percent! Although I must admit, I totally guessed on two of the questions. Ah, what a relief. It lasted until the lady said, “See you in five years when you have to take the behind-the-wheel test.” It is never too early to begin to worry.


James Utt, author of “Laguna Tails and Boomer Wails,” reminds you to yield to the car on your right at a four-way stop, and after you have exited your car on the track, run at a 45-degree angle towards the oncoming train.


Share this:



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here