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What Every Driver Needs To Know About Medical Impairment & Driving Privileges

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Some medical conditions are dangerous to the public, even though they are not contagious. Medical conditions such as epilepsy, dementia and abnormal heart rhythm could cause a motor vehicle driver to have a serious car accident. If you or a loved one have recently been having medical problems, such as headaches, memory loss or heart palpitations, it's important to limit driving until after a thorough medical evaluation.

If symptoms are ignored and a car accident happens, the driver could be faced with a huge lawsuit due to negligence. Here's what you need to know.

Medical conditions & the loss of driving privileges

In addition to epilepsy, dementia and abnormal heart rhythm, other medical problems that could cause you to lose your driver's license include vision impairment, substance dependency, and loss of reaction time due to old age. Sometimes, people try to ignore these types of medical conditions because they are scared to find out they have them, or they don't want to lose their driver's license because that could mean loss of their independence.

Often, it's hard for someone to recognize that their health condition has deteriorated to the extent that driving is dangerous. For this reason, friends and family members should pay attention to their loved ones who they feel may be dangerous to themselves and others behind the wheel. If you see someone you love is struggling to keep control of the wheel, ask them to pull over and explain that you want to take over driving.

Medication & operating a motor vehicle

Driving while medicated can also result in the inability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Mixing contraindicated medication can also have serious consequences behind the wheel. Whenever medication is taken, whether prescribed or over the counter, it's important to read and understand if and how the medication can affect your ability to drive.  

While you likely would not lose your driving privileges due to a change in medication, causing an accident while medicated will likely lead to a suspension of your driving privileges, as well as a lawsuit filed by anyone you may have injured.

Medical history evaluation forms

In most states, when a person turns 65 and it's time to renew their driver's license, they are required to fill out a medical history evaluation form. The individual fills out the form with his or her medical history, and a medical examiner reads through the information to determine if the individual is healthy enough to operate vehicles.

The examiner will be a state employee who is trained to identify various concerns listed on the medical history evaluation. However, they can only do so based on what the individuals fill out.

If there is any concern, the examiner then requires a physical examination before allowing the issuance of a driver's license. If the physical examination shows that the individual's medical condition could cause them to lose control of their vehicle while driving, their driver's license will not be renewed.

Doctors may report to the authorities

In some cases, doctors are required by law to inform the Department of Motor Vehicles in their state when a patient is diagnosed with a serious medical condition that could result in a car accident. While there are HIPAA laws that regulate and limit the disclosure of medical records, doctors are required to report these types of serious medical impairments due to the high risk of injury to the public.

While this may seem like it goes against confidentiality and HIPAA laws, it does not. However, the doctor needs to assess if the risk of injury to the public is greater than the risk of the individual losing confidentiality of their medical condition. Many doctors speak with their patients first and try to talk them into voluntarily giving up their driving privileges.

Driving can be dangerous when you have a medical impairment. Don't get behind the wheel if you have a medical condition or take medication that makes you drowsy or could otherwise impair your driving ability. If you have more questions about whether or not you could be held liable for an accident, contact a local car crash attorney