Montana

Montana

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

The driver's license application (first-time and renewal) asks an applicant (1) whether he or she suffers from any chronic or potentially chronic condition that may cause loss of consciousness or control and (2) whether he or she suffers from any physical or mental condition that impairs or may impair his or her ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the safe operation of a motor vehicle on the highway. Montana Motor Vehicle Division, "In-State Class D Driver License Mail Renewal Application," Form 21-1900A (Rev. 5/12). If an applicant answers yes to either question, he or she may, at the discretion of the licensing agency, be required to undergo a medical evaluation. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-207(1) (2012); Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211 (2) (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 police officers, physicians, and the general public. The licensing agency does not accept anonymous reports. Montana Motor Vehicle Division, "Recommendation for Re-Exam," Form 32-1800 (Rev.7/2012). Reports from police officers and physicians require an automatic reevaluation, Mont. Code Ann. § 37-2-311 (1) (physicians). Officers submitting recommendations must submit a written statement describing the incompetency and providing a basis for the request for reexamination. Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.410 (officers). Reports from family members and friends may be investigated before any reevaluation is required. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-207(1) (2012) ("reliable evidence" of unsafe driving may lead to medical evaluation); Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211(4) (2013) (driver with physical problem may need to submit medical report or full examination). Drivers also may be required to have medical evaluations if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211(3) (2013), or if they are involved in accidents resulting in fatalities.

What is the process for medical evaluations of drivers?

A medical evaluation by a physician is required when an applicant for a license or renewal answers application questions indicating that he or she has a medical condition that could interfere with safe driving. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-207(1) (2012); Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211 (2) (2013). In other situations, such as when the licensing agency receives a referral through one of the sources listed above, agency personnel investigate the situation to decide whether an evaluation is required. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-207(1) (2012). The medical evaluation form asks the physician to state whether the condition is improving, stable, worsening or deteriorating, or subject to change. Montana Motor Vehicle Division, "Driver Medical Evaluation," Form 20-1900 (Rev. 2/2010). The physician is also asked to describe the medications currently prescribed and whether side effects could interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle. The physician must also specify whether, in his or her opinion, the individual's physical or medical condition would interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle and whether any driving restrictions are recommended. Periodic follow-up medical evaluations may be required on the recommendation of the physician. Montana Motor Vehicle Division, "Driver Medical Evaluation," Form 20-1900 (Rev. 2/2010).

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, any physician that diagnoses a physical or mental condition that, in the physician's judgment, will significantly impair a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle may voluntarily report the person's name and other information relevant to the his or her condition to the licensing agency. Mont. Code Ann. § 37-2-311(1) (2012). A physician's report may be used only for the purpose of making licensing determinations and may not be used in any other civil or criminal proceedings. Mont. Code Ann. § 37-2-311(2)(a)-(b) (2012).

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

A physician that makes a report in good faith is immune from any civil or criminal liability that might attach to his or her actions, except for damages occasioned by gross negligence. Mont. Code Ann. § 37-2-312 (2012). A physician also is immune from any civil or criminal liability that might attach to his or her failure to make a report. Mont. Code Ann. § 37-2-312 (2012).

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

Decisions generally are made by licensing agency personnel. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-201(1) (2012) (authorizing the licensing agency to cancel a driver's license); Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-206(1) (2012) (authorizing the licensing agency to suspend a driver's license or driving privileges). The licensing agency may not license any driver who, because of a disability, lacks the functional ability to safely operate a vehicle. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-105(8) (2013). Montana does not have a Medical Advisory Board. However, certain cases may be referred to the state's Driver Improvement Board, which consists of state officials rather than medical personnel. Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.201 (2013) (describing the composition of the Driver Improvement Board). This Board may make determinations as to whether certain individuals should be licensed. Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.206 (2013) (providing that the Driver Improvement Board makes the "final decision [regarding] any proposed action to be taken against an individual's driving privileges that is not covered by [the Driver Rehabilitation Program's point system]").

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 the licensing agency receives reliable evidence that he or she lacks the ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the safe operation of a motor vehicle on the highway. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-207(1) (2012). A driver also may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if he or she is subject to fainting, dizzy spells, epilepsy or epileptic-type seizures. Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211(1)(a)-(b) (2013). Another instance in which a driver may be required to undergo a medical examination arises when he or she is reported to the licensing agency as a potentially unsafe driver. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-207(1) (2012); Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211(4) (2013). Furthermore, drivers may be required to have medical evaluations if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211(3) (2013), or if they are involved in accidents resulting in fatalities.

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

No. Montana has adopted no specific medical guidelines related to diabetes, except for its guidelines related to episodes of loss of consciousness.

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

When applying for a driver's license, an individual must provide a brief description of any physical or mental disability, limitation, or condition that impairs or may impair his or her ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the safe operation of a motor vehicle on the highway. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-107(2)(c) (2012). A person that suffers from fainting or dizzy spells must submit a medical evaluation form to the licensing agency if the last occurrence was within the preceding five years. Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211(1)(a) (2013). A person that suffers from epilepsy or epileptic-type seizures must submit a medical evaluation to the licensing agency regardless of the date of the last occurrence. Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.211(1)(b) (2013). Generally, the licensing agency will not license an individual who has any condition characterized by lapse of consciousness or control, either temporary or prolonged, that is or may become chronic. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-105(7) (2013). The physician must identify any disease or disorder "including … diabetes" or any other impairment that may cause lapse of consciousness or control of motor functions. The physician must document the date of the last episode. Montana Motor Vehicle Division, "Driver Medical Evaluation," Form 20-1900 (Rev. 2/2010). Otherwise, there is no specified episode-free period.

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. The licensing agency may, in its discretion, issue a license to an otherwise qualified individual suffering from a condition characterized by lapse of consciousness or control if the afflicted individual's physician attests in writing on the medical evaluation form that the individual's condition has stabilized and would not be likely to interfere with his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-105(7) (2012); Montana Motor Vehicle Division, "Driver Medical Evaluation," Form 20-1900 (Rev. 2/2010). Again, there is no specified episode-free period.

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

Any applicant whose license has been denied, revoked, suspended, or cancelled may request a hearing in the district court in the county in which he or she resides within 30 days, except in cases in which denial, revocation, suspension, or cancellation is mandatory. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-211 (2012). The court will schedule a hearing upon 30 days written notice to the licensing agency. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-211 (2012). Both the petitioner and the licensing agency are permitted to present evidence and testimony. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-211 (2012).

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

Yes. If after the licensing process, which may include a medical evaluation, the licensing agency determines that an individual's ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the safe operation of a motor vehicle on the highway depends on the imposition of certain restrictions, then the licensing agency shall impose those restrictions on his or her license. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-113(1) (2012); Mont. Code Ann. § 61-5-207(2)(a) (2013) ("Upon the review of a medical evaluation, the conclusion of testing, or both, the department may…impose restrictions on the license…that are appropriate to the licensee's acknowledged or demonstrated functional abilities."). Furthermore, the licensing agency may issue a probationary license in lieu of suspension or revocation to an individual participating in the Driver Rehabilitation Program. Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.231(2)(a)-(b) (2013); Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.203(2) (2013) ("A person whose license is suspended for any reason other than refusal to submit to a chemical test of his [or her] blood, breath, or urine is eligible to participate in the Driver Rehabilitation Program if he [or she] complies with all requirements for reobtaining a license after suspension.").

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes, with proper identification and payment of a fee of $8.00. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-12-504(1) (2012); Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.147(2)-(3) (2013). Persons with disabilities and those recently released from prison are able to obtain identification cards free of charge. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-12-504(2) (2012); Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.147(4)-(5) (2013). An identification card is valid for a period of four years. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-12-504(3)(a) (2010). Additionally, a Montana resident may hold a driver's license and an identification card concurrently. Mont. Admin. R. 23.3.147(7) (2013). For more information, see Montana Department of Justice, "Driver Licenses and ID Cards."

Resources

Driver licensing in Montana is administered by the Motor Vehicle Division of the state Department of Justice.