District of Columbia

District of Columbia

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

Yes. All first-time and renewal applicants are asked whether they ever have had or been treated for insulin-dependent diabetes (among other medical conditions). The new license application also asks about seizures or loss of consciousness, and any other mental or physical conditions that would impair ability to drive. District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles, "DC Driver License or Identification Card Application," Form DMVR-4 (Rev. 07/2013). Anyone answering yes must have a Medical and Eye Report completed by a physician. For more information, see District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles, "Medical Requirements."

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 reports of potentially unsafe drivers from police officers, the courts, physicians, family members, friends, other individuals, and hospitals. The licensing agency accepts anonymous reports and does not investigate any of the reporting sources before it initiates an evaluation. A driver that develops diabetes, a loss-of-consciousness or seizure disorder, or hearing impairment is required to report the condition to the licensing agency within ten days of learning of it. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.12 (2013). A driver that has developed diabetes is required to submit a medical report and may be referred to the Medical Board. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.12(a) (2013). 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, D.C. Code § 50-1401.01(a)(1)(B)(ii) (2013), if they are involved in a crash involving a fatality, 18-111 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 111.3(a) (2013), upon reaching age 70, 18-111 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 111.5(a) (2013), or when applying for a handicapped parking permit. For more information, see District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles, "Medical Requirements."

What is the process for medical evaluations of drivers?

Any person who self-reports on his or her license application that he or she has diabetes (or who comes to the attention of the licensing agency in other ways) must supply a diabetes medical report and a diabetes eye report from their treating physicians. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.1 (2013). More generally, a driver may be required to submit to a medical examination if the licensing agency has good cause to believe that he or she is incompetent or otherwise not qualified to be licensed. 18-111 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 111.1 (2013). The medical report must be completed by a licensed physician and asks whether the applicant is an insulin-dependent diabetic. District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles, "Medical/Eye Report," Form DMV-MER-002 (Rev. 06/2011). It further asks about episodes of seizures and other existing physical or mental conditions restricting the ability to drive safely. The form also asks the physician for a recommendation as to whether the individual can drive safely. If the physician and the eye doctor who fills out the diabetes eye report respond affirmatively, the applicant generally will be given a license without restrictions. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.1 (2013). However, individuals over 70 and those between 16 and 25 who are applying for their first license are automatically referred to the Medical Advisory Board for further review. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.2 (2013). Follow-up medical evaluations are required every five years (at license renewal) in most cases, 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.4 (2013), although more frequent reviews can be ordered if the condition is likely to change, 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.5 (2013). After receiving the medical form, the licensing agency may uphold the license, reissue it with restrictions, issue a temporary license, or suspend the driver's license entirely. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.13, .106.15 (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?

There is no statutory immunity from civil or criminal liability for physicians who report drivers with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely.

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

The licensing agency's medical review unit, which includes some personnel with a medical background, reviews information submitted by applicants and makes licensing decisions. The District of Columbia does not have an independent medical advisory board.

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

An applicant is required to undergo a medical and eye examination if he or she states on the license application that he or she has been treated for insulin-dependent diabetes. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.1 (2013). Drivers also may be required to undergo medical evaluations if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, D.C. Code § 50-1401.01(a)(1)(B)(ii) (2013), if they are involved in a crash involving a fatality, 18-111 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 111.3(a) (2013), upon reaching age 70, 18-111 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 111.5(a) (2013), or when applying for a handicapped parking permit. A driver may be required to submit to a medical examination if the licensing agency has good cause to believe that he or she is incompetent or otherwise not qualified to be licensed. 18-111 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 111.1 (2013). Additionally, a driver that develops diabetes, a loss-of-consciousness or seizure disorder, or hearing impairment is required to report the condition to the licensing agency within ten days of learning of it. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.12 (2013). A driver that has developed diabetes is required to submit a medical report and may be referred to the Medical Board. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.12(a) (2013).

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

Yes. Drivers or new applicants must self-report a new diagnosis of diabetes. Individuals with diabetes may be licensed without restriction if they provide approval of vision by an optometrist or ophthalmologist and approval of health by a physician. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.1(a)-(b) (2013). If the medical reports indicate satisfactory control of the diabetes and do not show eye pathology, then no further medical reports are required until license renewal (5 years). 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.4 (2013). If either report indicates the probability of rapid progression of the disease or if vision is compromised, reports may be requested at shorter intervals. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.5 (2013).

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

Drivers receiving treatment for episodes of loss of consciousness or seizures must sign affidavits each year affirming that they have been seizure-free for a period of 12 months. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.9 (2013). Such individuals also must submit physician's medical reports annually until they have been seizure-free for a period of 5 years; after that time only the affidavit is required. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. §§ 106.8, 106.10 (2013). If a driver fails to file the affidavit, his or her license is revoked until he or she furnishes evidence that he or she is physically qualified to operate a motor vehicle. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.10 (2013). As long as a physician's medical report is being submitted, it must indicate (1) that the physician has knowledge of the seizure history of the applicant; (2) that in the physician's professional opinion the applicant can operate a motor vehicle as not to endanger life or property; and (3) that the applicant has not experienced an altered state of consciousness for the preceding 12 months. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.7(a)-(c) (2013). If any episode of seizures or altered consciousness occurred in the preceding 12 months, the license is suspended until the individual is episode-free for 12 months. An individual who has had a seizure within the 12-month period may be considered for a license at the discretion of the licensing agency's medical officer if a physician certifies that the episode was a "one-time" occurrence, was caused by a physician's recommendation to discontinue use of medication for medical reasons, or if episodes are clearly documented to happen only at night. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.9(a)-(c) (2013).

Does the district 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?

Yes, if a driver has experienced a seizure within the preceding twelve-month period and subsequently has had his or her license suspended, he or she may be considered for a license at the discretion of the licensing agency's medical officer if a physician certifies that the episode was a one-time occurrence; that it was caused by a physician's recommendation to discontinue use of medication for medical reasons; or that the episodes are clearly documented as occurring only at night. 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.9(a)-(c) (2013).

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

The suspension remains in effect until the driver is found to be medically compliant. The licensing agency will consider certification from a physician that a particular condition no longer exists and that the driver has the physical and mental abilities required to operate a motor vehicle. An appeal of the licensing agency's decision under its discretionary authority to suspend a driver's license may be requested, 18-309 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 309.1 (2013); 18-1005 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 1005.1 (2013), but such appeals are rarely requested by drivers disqualified because of medical conditions. Such a request must be made in writing to the director of the licensing agency within five days after the issuance of the revocation or suspension order. 18-1005 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 1005.2 (2013).

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

No. However, the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations state that after review of an individual's medical condition, the licensing agency may reissue a license "with conditions necessary to ensure the safety of individuals and property." 18-106 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 106.13 (2013).

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes, with proper identification and proof of residency. 18-112 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 112.1-112.2 (2013). An individual cannot hold both a driver's license and an ID card. 18-112 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 112.13 (2013). An individual must pay a $20.00 fee to obtain an ID card, which is waived for DC residents age 65 and older. 18-112 D.C. Code Mun. Regs. § 112.12(a)-(c) (2013).

Resources

Driver licensing in the District of Columbia is administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles.