Alaska

Alaska

Are applicants for a driver's license asked questions about diabetes?

Yes. All license applicants are required to answer questions about physical or mental disability. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.420(c) (2013) The first question asks whether the applicant has any physical impairment. If the answer is yes, the applicant must describe the impairment.

A second question asks whether the applicant has during the past five years suffered from heart trouble, seizures, fainting, dizzy spells, or loss of consciousness (among other conditions). If an applicant answers "Yes" to this question, the department may require a physician's statement before issuing a license. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.420(c) (2013); Alaska Stat. § 28.15.081 (2012).

If a driver indicates that he or she has a physical impairment, then the licensing agency issues any restrictions on the last license if the impairment occurred before the last license was issued. If the physical impairment occurred after the last license was issued, the driver may be required to take a road test, depending on the impairment.

What other ways does the state have to find out about people who may not be able to drive safely because of a medical condition?

The licensing agency accepts requests for license removals of potentially unsafe drivers from criminal justice agencies, physicians, or "members of the general public." Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.450(c) (2013). The report must be in writing. Id. It may not be anonymous, although it may be treated with confidentiality. Id. The request must provide "specific information" on how a physical condition affects driving. Id.

Drivers may also be required to have a medical evaluation if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, Id., or when they apply for a handicapped parking permit.

A licensee who suffers the permanent loss of a foot, leg, or eye (for example, from an amputation due to neuropathy) must report to the licensing agency. The agency may require a reexamination of a licensee's driving ability and require the licensee to operate a vehicle with special equipment. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.450(b) (2013).

Are physicians required by law to report drivers who have medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely?

There is no statutory authority requiring physicians to report drivers with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely to a central state agency.

Are physicians who report drivers with medical conditions immune from legal action by the patient?

Alaska law does not immunize a physician who reports a driver with a medical condition affecting his or her ability to drive safely from civil liability for damages arising out of an accident caused by the condition.

What is the process for medical evaluations of drivers?

When the licensing agency has reason to believe a driver may be medically unsafe, either because the driver gave positive answers to medical questions on the license application or because of a report from one of the other sources listed above, it will require the individual to have a medical evaluation. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, §§ 90.440, 90.450(c) (2013).

When a medical evaluation is required, a form is given to the individual, which must be completed by his or her physician. On the medical evaluation form, physicians are asked to provide a diagnosis and to state whether the condition is improving, stable, worsening, or subject to change; whether the patient is under a controlled medical program; whether the patient adheres to the medical regimen; and what medications are currently being prescribed and whether the side effects interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle. The form contains no specific questions about diabetes. Physicians are asked to indicate whether authorization of a driving privilege is medically prudent.

In addition, the physician is asked to indicate what medical restrictions are necessary for operating a motor vehicle. Completed forms are sent back to the licensing agency, which then makes a decision on the driver's qualifications. Periodic reexaminations or medical statements may be required. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.440(e) (2013).

If the department determines from the results of an examination that the licensee is unfit to operate a motor vehicle safely, the department will either cancel the licensee's privileges to operate a motor vehicle in this state or issue the person a restricted license. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.450 (2013). The department may cancel or suspend the license of a person who refuses to submit to a medical examination. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.450 (2013).

What are the circumstances under which a driver may be required to undergo a medical evaluation?

The licensing agency may require an individual to submit to a physical or mental examination if it has good cause to believe that the individual is physically or mentally incompetent to operate a motor vehicle safely. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.450(a) (2011). It may require an individual to submit to semi-annual neurological or physical examinations as a condition of licensure. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.440(e) (2011).

If a driver has had an "uncontrolled seizure" or an "episode of loss of conscious control" as a result of diabetes, that driver may not receive a license until he or she completes a medical evaluation. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.440 (a) (2013). The licensing agency also may require an annual visual examination, and periodic vision reports, for a person with a progressive eye disease or condition. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.440(f)(8)-(9) (2013).

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

Licensing agency personnel make licensing decisions based on the doctor's recommendation and state medical standards. See Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.440 (2013). Any license revocation must be based upon medical evidence. Alaska Stat. § 28.15.031(b)(4) (2012). The agency accepts most physicians' recommendations; however, a second opinion may be required if the physician's recommendation seems to endanger the driving public or is against medical standards. Alaska does not have an independent medical advisory board.

Has the state adopted specific policies about whether people with diabetes are allowed to drive?

No. Alaska has no specific policies about licensing of drivers with diabetes other than its loss of consciousness policy (see below).

What is the state's policy about episodes of altered consciousness or loss of consciousness that may be due to diabetes?

Any person having an uncontrolled seizure or loss of conscious control because of diabetes must surrender his or her license. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.440(a) (2013). That license may not be returned for at least six months. A medical evaluation is required. Id. Any licensed physician who is aware of the circumstances leading to this license cancellation may complete this evaluation. The physician must certify the following in a written statement:

  1. The driver has been seizure or episode-free for six months
  2. The driver has the condition under control and
  3. The driver can safely operate a motor vehicle.

Renewal applicants must indicate when the last episode occurred and are not issued licenses if the episode occurred within the past six months. Medical evaluations are not required for episodes that occurred more than five years in the past.

Does the state allow for waivers of this policy, e.g., a waiver for a one-time episode of severe hypoglycemia that has mitigating factors (e.g., recent change in medication, illness, etc.) or that has been addressed with a physician?

No. The applicant must be episode-free for six months and have his or her condition under control. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.440(a)(1)-(2) (2013).

What is the process for appealing a decision of the state regarding a driver's license?

An individual has a right to an administrative hearing for judicial review in superior court, which must be requested within 30 days of notice of the decision. Alaska Stat. § 28.05.141(d) (2013).

May an individual whose license is suspended or denied because of diabetes receive a probationary or restricted license?

Yes. When issuing a license, the licensing agency also may impose any restrictions "that it determines to be appropriate to assure the safe operation of a motor vehicle by the licensee." Alaska Stat. § 28.15.121 (2012). Vision restrictions may be imposed as directed by a physician. See Alaska Admin. Code tit. 2, § 90.440(f) (2013). Visit the Division of Motor Vehicles, "Reinstate After Medical Condition," for more information about reinstating one's license after a medical cancellation.

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes. With proper identification and payment of a $15 fee, the state will issue a non-driver ID to be used for identification purposes only. Alaska Stat. § 18.65.310(a) (2012).

Resources

Driver licensing in Alaska is administered by the Division of Motor Vehicles within the State Department of Administration.