Georgia

Georgia

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

Although diabetes is not expressly mentioned, first-time applicants are asked if they now or ever have had any physical or mental disability or disease that could interfere with safe driving. Any applicant who has or has had such a condition is required to obtain from his or her physician a statement attesting that he or she is well enough to drive safely.

For more information, see Georgia Dept. of Driver's Services, "Medical and Vision Information," last updated Dec. 13th, 2012 (Accessed Aug., 2013).

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 state accepts reports of potentially unsafe drivers from law enforcement officers, the courts, physicians, caregivers, relatives, and hospitals. See Georgia Dept. of Driver's Services, "Request for Driver Evaluation," Form DDS-270, Rev. 2/24/10. The licensing agency does not accept anonymous reports. Id. Reporting individuals may request that their name is not revealed to the driver. Id. Requests for driver evaluation must indicate evidence of the incapacity. Id. Various general conditions and symptoms are listed, including "Blackouts, Seizures, Fainting Spells." Id. Diabetes is not specifically included. Any individual may submit this Request for Driver Evaluation to the licensing agency. Id.

What is the process for medical evaluations of drivers?

If the licensing agency has reason to believe that an applicant may be physically or mentally unfit to drive, a physician of the applicant's choice must fill out a medical evaluation form (Medical Report DS-287). See Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-34(c) (2013) (licensing agency may report driver to Driver License Advisory Board,and may require examinations, report, or doctor's advice); Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.10(1) (2012). The medical evaluation form has a specific section for diabetes. Georgia Dept. of Driver Services, "Medical Report," DS 287, Mar. 2007. The form asks about the date of the onset of diabetes, insulin and medications taken, whether the diabetes is well controlled, whether the applicant ever has been in a diabetic coma, and whether the applicant ever has experienced a hypoglycemic episode resulting in loss of consciousness or near loss of consciousness. Id. The form also asks the physician to give an opinion on whether the applicant is medically capable of operating a motor vehicle safely. Id.

This form must be returned to the licensing agency. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.10(2) (2012). The agency will send a copy of the form to the Driver's License Advisory Board. Id. The medical review section of the licensing agency will review the information and make a decision on the applicant's qualifications. Id. If necessary, the Board may ask for re-examination by a specialist, at the applicant's own cost. Id. The licensing agency will then use the Board's recommendation to decide whether to approve the license. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.10(5) (2012). Periodic follow-up examinations may be required for drivers who experience episodes of loss of consciousness. See Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.02(2) (2012).

For more information, see Georgia Dept. of Driver's Services, "Medical and Vision Information," last updated Dec. 13th, 2012 (Accessed Aug., 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. However, physicians licensed to "diagnose and treat disorders and disabilities" which may cause unsafe driving may report "the full name, date of birth, and address of any person with a disability which would render such person incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely." Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-35(b) (2013). All reports are confidential and are used "solely for the purpose of determining the qualifications of any person to drive a motor vehicle on the highways of [Georgia]." Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-35(d) (2013).

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

Yes, no civil or criminal liability will attach to any physician's submission of a report on any person with a disability that would render such person incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely made pursuant to § 40-5-35(b). Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-35(d) (2013).

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

Decisions normally are made by the licensing agency's medical review unit. The licensing agency generally follows the recommendation of the treating physician; however, in some situations (such as where the opinions of two treating physicians conflict), cases may be referred to the state's independent Driver License Advisory Board. See generally Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-35 (2013); Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.10 (2012).

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

A driver may be required to undergo a medical examination if, when initially applying for a driver's license, the driver indicates that he or she now or ever has had any physical or mental disability or disease that could interfere with safe driving. A driver also may be required to undergo a medical examination upon the submission of a Request for Driver Evaluation (DDS-270) by another individual. (See above). More generally, a driver may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if the licensing agency has reason to believe that he or she is physically or mentally incompetent to operate a motor vehicle. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.10(1) (2012). If the licensing agency refers a case to the Driver License Advisory Board, it also may compel a medical evaluation as a condition of licensure. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-34(c) (2013).

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

No. Georgia has enacted no specific policies about the licensing of drivers with diabetes other than its loss-of-consciousness policy. (See below.) However, the licensing agency will allow any person that has been diagnosed with diabetes to voluntarily request that a medical alert notation be placed on his or her license, permit, or identification card. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-1.28(1)(b) (2012).

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

An individual that has experienced loss of consciousness may still obtain a driver's license, so long as the episode of altered consciousness was not within the last year. See Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.02(2)(a)-(b) (2012). An episode within the last year usually leads to disqualification. Id. These episodes of loss of consciousness may be for any reason, and hypoglycemia is mentioned as a qualifying episode. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.02(1)-(2)(b) ("stress hypoglycemia" for a "Class B" commercial license.) Periodic medical evaluations are required as a condition of licensure for anyone experiencing lapses of consciousness with a likelihood of recurrence. See Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.02(2) (2012).

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?

The relevant sections of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia contemplate only "episodic alteration of consciousness" which is "severe enough to cause the person to lose his postural attitude or be unable to continue whatever action he was involved in." Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.02(1) (2012). "Isolated incidents of lapses of consciousness without likelihood of recurrence" are not subject to these provisions. Id.

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

A driver may file a written request for an informal hearing within 15 days of receiving a notice that his or her license is being revoked. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-35(f) (2013). A hearing will be held before a hearing officer for the department. At this hearing, an individual may introduce evidence and testimony showing that he or she is competent to drive safely. Id. A driver also may request the opinion of the Driver License Advisory Board by submitting a written request within the 15-day window. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-35(f) (2013); see also Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-34(c) (2013) (describing the procedure whereby the Driver License Advisory Board reviews potentially unqualified drivers).

Normally, the individual may continue to drive pending the result of the hearing. See Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-35(f) (2013). However, the state can immediately revoke the license if the driver has lapses of consciousness, or is deemed unsafe to the public and the department determines that it is an emergency situation. Id.; Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.09(12) (2012) (setting forth procedures for emergency order). A driver may not appeal a decision to place restrictions on his or her license (as opposed to a complete revocation). Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-5.09(7) (2012).

Finally, if an individual desires, he or she may appeal any decision of the licensing agency in the superior court of the county of his residence or in the Superior Court of Fulton County within 30 days of the decision being rendered. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-66(a) (2013).

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

There are no probationary licenses. The licensing agency may with good cause impose restrictions on an individual's license "appropriate to assure the safe operation of a motor vehicle by the licensee." Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-30(a) (2013). These restrictions may be issued either in a "special restricted license" or set forth as restrictions on "the usual license form." Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-30(b) (2013).

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes. Non-drivers may apply to the licensing agency for identification cards. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-100 (2013). The fee for a five-year card is $20.00, and the fee for an eight-year card is $35.00. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-103(a) (2013). Identification cards may be issued to individuals with permanent disabilities for four-year periods. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-172(a) (2013). Non-obvious disabilities require an affidavit from at least one medical doctor. Id. Individuals with temporary disabilities may obtain identification cards for six-month periods. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-172(b) (2013). The fee for an identification card issued to a disabled individual is $5.00. Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-178(a) (2013).

Resources

Driver licensing in Georgia is administered by the state Department of Driver Services.