Minnesota

Minnesota

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

Yes. The driver's license application (first-time and renewal) asks an applicant whether he or she has any medical condition that may impair his or her ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Applicants also are asked whether they use insulin and whether they use any medications, other than insulin, to control loss of consciousness or voluntary control. See Minn. Stat. § 171.13(1) (2013) (authorizing the licensing agency to conduct physical and mental examinations as it finds necessary to determine an applicant's fitness to operate a motor vehicle safely upon the highways). If an applicant answers yes to any of these questions, he or she is required to have a physician complete a medical evaluation form.

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 police officers, the courts, family members, friends, other citizens, and hospitals. Physicians may voluntarily submit a report of unsafe driving. Minn. Stat. § 171.131 (2013). The licensing agency does not accept anonymous reports and does not investigate any of the reporting sources before it begins an evaluation of a driver. Drivers also may be required to have medical evaluations if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, if they have been involved in at-fault crashes involving a fatality, or when applying for handicapped parking permits.

What is the process for medical evaluations of drivers?

Individuals who use insulin or who have an episode of loss of consciousness in a motor vehicle must have a medical evaluation form filled out by a physician. See Minn. R. 7410.2500(2)(B), .2610(3)-(3a) (2013). When an evaluation is required, a form is sent to the individual, which must be completed by his or her physician. Minn. R. 7410.3000(2) (2013). The report must be made within 30 days of any diagnosis or episode. Minn. R. 7410.2610(3)(A)-(C) (2013). Individuals who use insulin must complete a portion of the form indicating whether they have had episodes of losses of consciousness due to diabetes while driving a motor vehicle and, if so, indicate the dates on which they occurred. Minn. Dept. of Pub. Safety, "Insulin-Treated Diabetes Mellitus Report," Form PS31077-12 (Rev. 01/12). The form also asks whether the individual has had other non-driving-related episodes of loss of consciousness. Minn. Dept. of Pub. Safety, "Insulin-Treated Diabetes Mellitus Report," Form PS31077-12 (Rev. 01/12). The physician is asked to provide a diagnosis, describe the treatments or medications prescribed, indicate whether the patient cooperates with the treatment, and indicate the prognosis for control of diabetes. Id. In addition, the physician is asked to indicate whether the individual is qualified (in all medical aspects) to exercise reasonable and ordinary control over a motor vehicle and whether a follow-up medical examination should be required. Id.

Medical evaluation forms must be returned to the licensing agency, where they are evaluated and a licensing decision is made. See Minn. R. 7410.2610(5a) (2013). Periodic follow-up medical evaluations may be required, based on agency guidelines and the recommendation of the physician. See Minn. R. 7410.2610(3a)(E) (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, a physician may voluntarily report a driver with a physical or mental condition that in the physician's judgment will significantly impair the person's ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Minn. Stat. § 171.131(1) (2013).

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

Physicians that report in good faith and in the exercise of due care drivers with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely are immune from any civil or criminal liability that might result from doing so. Minn. Stat. § 171.131(2) (2013). Additionally, physicians that do not report drivers with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely also are immune from any civil or criminal liability that might result from doing so. Minn. Stat. § 171.131(2) (2013).

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

Licensing decisions are made by personnel in the licensing agency's medical unit. See generally Minn. Stat. § 171.09(1) (2013) (authorizing the licensing agency to impose restrictions on an individual's license "appropriate to assure the safe operation of a motor vehicle by the licensee"). In certain situations, cases may be referred to the state's independent Medical Advisory Board for recommendations. See Minn. R. 7410.3000(2) (2013). For example, applicants applying for a variance from the normal statutory requirements must submit a full medical history, which will be reviewed by the state Medical Review Board. Minn. R. 7410.3000(2) (2013). The review board will make a recommendation, and the licensing agency will make any final decision. Id.

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 evaluation if a physician reports him or her to the licensing agency as having a physical or mental condition that in the physician's judgment will significantly impair his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Minn. Stat. § 171.131(1) (2013). A driver also may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if he or she has experienced an episode of loss of consciousness or voluntary control or has insulin-dependent diabetes. Minn. R. 7410.2500(2)(B), .2610(3)-(3a) (2013). Drivers also may be required to have medical evaluations if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, if they have been involved in at-fault crashes involving a fatality, when applying for handicapped parking permits, or if they have been reported to the licensing agency as potentially unsafe drivers.

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

Yes. An individual diagnosed with insulin-treated diabetes is required to report his or her diagnosis to the licensing agency within 30 days of the diagnosis if applying for a driver's license and within 30 days of any episode of loss of consciousness or voluntary control due to hypo- or hyperglycemia, whether the episode is related or not related to driving. Minn. R. 7410.2610(3)(A)-(C) (2013). Failing to report will lead to license suspension for at least 6 months. Minn. R. 7410.2610(3)(C) (2013). An individual must submit a physician's statement on a form provided by the licensing agency after he or she is diagnosed with insulin-treated diabetes or after any driving-related episode of loss of consciousness or voluntary control; and then every six months until the individual has been episode-free for one year; and then annually until the individual has been episode-free for four years; and then every four years; and additionally, as recommended by a physician or by the licensing agency itself. Minn. R. 7410.2610(3a)(A)-(E) (2013). Failure to submit the form within 30 days will lead to license cancellation. Minn. R. 7410.2610(3a)(E) (2013). The physician's statement must indicate the date of each of the individual's episodes since the previous physician's statement; whether the individual is cooperating in the treatment of the condition; the prognosis for control of his or her diabetic condition; and whether the individual is medically qualified to exercise reasonable and ordinary control over a motor vehicle on the public roads. Minn. R. 7410.2610(3a)(E) (2013); see also Minn. Dept. of Pub. Safety, "Insulin-Treated Diabetes Mellitus Report," Form PS31077-12 (Rev. 01/12).

If the physician's statement indicates that the individual is not medically qualified to drive, the individual's license will be cancelled for a period of time based on the physician's recommendation or that of the Medical Advisory Board. Minn. R. 7410.2610(5a)(A) (2013). If an individual experiences a driving-related episode, his or her license will be cancelled for six months, Minn. R. 7410.2610(5a)(B) (2013). The licensing agency must deliver written notification by first-class mail to an individual whose license is subject to cancellation, suspension, or denial. Minn. R. 7410.2610(5b) (2013). If an individual's license has been cancelled, suspended, or denied, it will be reinstated upon the following requirements: 1) the period of suspension, if any, has expired; 2) he or she has paid the required suspension reinstatement fee; 3) no withdrawal of his or her driver's license is outstanding; 4) the requirements that resulted in suspension, cancellation, or denial have been completed; 5) and the individual submits a physician's statement, on a form prescribed by the commissioner. Minn. R. 7410.2610(6)(A)-(E) (2013). The statement must indicate the following: (1) the date of each of the drivers episodes since the previous physician's statement; (2) a statement that the driver is cooperating in the treatment of the condition; (3) a favorable prognosis for the control of his or her diabetic condition; and (4) a statement that the driver is medically qualified to exercise reasonable and ordinary control over a motor vehicle on the public roads. Minn. R. 7410.2610(6)(E) (2013).

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

An individual must report in writing any episode of loss of consciousness or voluntary control to the licensing agency when applying for a driver's license or within 30 days of any such episode. Minn. R. 7410.2500(2)(A)-(B) (2013). Each report must specify the date of the episode and must be accompanied by a physician's statement on a form provided by the licensing agency. Minn. R. 7410.2500(2)(B) (2013). If an individual is aware of the reporting requirements and willfully fails to report an episode or makes a misrepresentation thereof, the licensing agency shall suspend his or her driver's license for six months. Minn. R. 7410.2500(2a)(A)-(B) (2013); see also Minn. R. 7410.2500(D) (2013). If the licensing agency has good cause to believe that an individual has experienced an episode of loss of consciousness or voluntary control or if the physician's statement indicates an unfavorable prognosis, the licensing agency will cancel or deny the individual's license. Minn. R. 7410.2500(3) (2013).

The individual's license will be reinstated only after (1) three months have elapsed; (2) the individual submits a physician's statement indicating a favorable prognosis for episode-free control of his or her condition, that the individual is cooperating in the treatment of the condition, and that he or she is medically qualified to exercise reasonable and proper control over a motor vehicle on the public roads; and (3) the licensing agency receives a satisfactory statement from the individual stating the date of the last episode of loss of consciousness or voluntary control. Minn. R. 7410.2500(3), (4) (2010). If the licensing agency has good cause to believe that an individual's condition is not controlled, it will require a physician's statement every six months or at shorter intervals as recommended by the reporting physician. Minn. R. 7410.2500(5)(D) (2013). If an individual has been free from episodes of loss of consciousness or voluntary control for four years, the licensing agency will require a physician's statement every four years, unless the physician recommends more frequent reports. Minn. R. 7410.2500(5)(E) (2013).

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?

Yes. However, note that there is no statutory exception to the cancellation period imposed for episodes of loss of consciousness or voluntary control caused by diabetes. See Minn. R. 7410.2610(6) (2013).

For losses of consciousness with causes other than diabetes, the licensing agency will not cancel or deny the license of an individual that has experienced an episode of loss of consciousness or voluntary control (1) if the individual submits a physician's statement that indicates that the episode resulted from a change or removal of medication on physician's orders and the physician does not recommend cancellation or denial of the individual's driving privileges; (2) if the individual submits a physician's statement that the episode was the first episode experienced by him or her and the physician does not recommend cancellation or denial of his or her driving privileges; or (3) if the individual submits a physician's statement indicating (a) that the episode was the first episode experienced by him or her in four or more years; (b) that the episode was due to intervening and self-limiting temporary illness, treated by a physician, or to the individual forgetting to take the medication; (c) and that the short and long term prognoses for episode-free control of the individual's condition are favorable. Minn. R. 7410.2500(3)(A)-(C) (2013). If an individual's license is preserved in any of these ways, the licensing agency will require a physician's statement every six months for a year or at shorter intervals as recommended by the reporting physician. Minn. R. 7410.2500(5)(A)-(C) (2013).

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

A person who disagrees with the determination of the licensing agency may apply, in writing, for a variance. Minn. R. 7410.3000(2) (2013). Applicants applying for a variance from the normal statutory requirements must submit a full medical history, which will be reviewed by the state Medical Review Board. Id. The review board will make a recommendation, and the licensing agency will make any final decision. Id. This decision shall be reached and the applicant informed of the decision within 60 days of the request for a variance. Id.

Furthermore, within 180 days or before the expiration of the withdrawal period (whichever occurs first), an individual may appeal a licensing decision in district court. Minn. Stat. § 171.19 (2013). A hearing will be scheduled within 15 days of the request, and both parties may introduce evidence and testimony. Minn. Stat. § 171.19 (2013). The petitioner must be present for the proceeding. Minn. Stat. § 171.19 (2013). If the court sustains the licensing decision, an individual will have no further right of appeal to any court until after one year has passed. Minn. Stat. § 171.19 (2013).

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

No. However, the licensing agency is authorized to impose restrictions on an individual's license "appropriate to assure the safe operation of a motor vehicle by the licensee." Minn. Stat. § 171.09(1) (2013).

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes, with proper identification and payment of a fee. See Minn. Stat. § 171.07(3) (2013). Reduced fees are available for persons with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities, see Minn. Stat. § 171.07(3)(e) (2013); Minn. R. 7410.0700 (2013); and senior citizens, see Minn. Stat. § 171.07(3a) (2013).

Resources

Driver licensing in Minnesota is administered by the Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the State Department of Public Safety.