North Dakota

North Dakota

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

Yes. Both first-time and renewal driver's license applications asks an applicant to describe any physical or mental conditions that he or she has that might impair safe driving. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-02 (2013) (providing that applications must include medical condition questions). The applicant also is asked more specifically whether he or she has insulin-dependent diabetes or ever has suffered from any lapse of consciousness. The first and third questions above also are asked of renewal applicants, but the renewal application does not specifically ask whether an applicant has diabetes. All applicants who have had episodes of loss of consciousness within the last 12 months must have medical evaluation forms filled out by their physicians. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(2)-(3) (2013) (providing for medical evaluations for loss of consciousness). Other individuals with diabetes also may be required to have such evaluations if their condition impairs safe driving. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-02 (2013) (generally providing for medical evaluations for conditions impairing safe driving).

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, family members, and hospitals. The licensing agency does not accept anonymous reports, and reports from family members are followed up with phone calls or visits with the persons claiming to be family members. N.D. Cent. Code § 23-07-01.1(1) (2013) (reports of unsafe drivers accepted from physicians). Drivers also may be required to have medical evaluations if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-03-02 (2013) (generally providing for medical evaluations if licensing agency has good cause to believe driver is not competent or qualified to drive).

What is the process for medical evaluations of drivers?

When the licensing agency has reason to believe that a driver may be medically unsafe to operate a motor vehicle, 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. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-02, -01-05(2)-(3), -03-02 (2013). When this happens, an evaluation form is sent to the individual, which must be completed by his or her physician. The driver pays the expense for these examinations. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-03-02 (2013) (with good cause, licensing agency may require examinations and reports by medical doctors, and driver bears expense). The medical evaluation form asks the physician about the causes and dates of any episodes of loss of consciousness and whether the most recent episode was a single instance that is not likely to recur. The physician also is asked whether the individual has any physical or medical conditions that would interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle, whether periodic follow-up medical evaluations should be required, and whether any license restrictions are recommended. Medical evaluation forms are returned to the licensing agency for review and a licensing decision. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-02 (licensing agency may require applicants to have examination by licensed physician), -01-05(2)-(3) (conditions with loss of consciousness require physician's statement) (2013). Periodic follow-up medical evaluations may be required for conditions affecting consciousness (at three months, six months, one year, or some other interval) on the recommendation of the licensing agency. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(4) (2013).

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

No. 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 may voluntarily report unsafe drivers. If a physician has reasonable cause to believe that an individual 14 years of age or older, due to a physical or mental reason, is incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle or has been diagnosed with a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness or gross physical or mental impairments, then the physician may report to the licensing agency, in writing, the name, date of birth, and address of the individual. N.D. Cent. Code § 23-07-01.1(1) (2013). Any information so reported will remain confidential and may be used solely for making licensing determinations. N.D. Cent. Code § 23-07-01.1(2) (2013). The physician-patient privilege cannot be asserted to prevent the reporting of information demonstrating the mental or physical incapacity of an individual to safely operate a motor vehicle. N.D. Cent. Code § 23-07-01.1(3) (2013).

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

Yes, for both civil and criminal liability, so long as they are acting in good faith and not committing perjury. They are also immune from any liability arising from failure to disclose a condition. N.D. Cent. Code § 23-07-01.1(4) (2013). Furthermore, physicians providing medical advice to the licensing agency with regard to pending licensing determinations are immune from any liability for any opinion, recommendation, or advice provided. N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-07.2(3) (2013).

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

Generally, licensing decisions are made by non-medical licensing agency personnel based on information provided by individuals' physicians and state medical standards. See, e.g., N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-24 (2013) (authorizing the licensing agency to cancel licenses); N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-32(1)-(8) (2013) (authorizing the licensing agency to suspend licenses). On occasion, borderline or unusual cases are referred to the state's independent Medical Advisory Board for recommendations. N.D. Admin. Code 37-08-01-04 (2013) (providing that, upon the request of the licensing agency, the Medical Advisory Board may review cases and make licensing recommendations regarding drivers with diminished visual acuity).

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 he or she has experienced loss of consciousness because of various medical conditions, including diabetes. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(1) (2013). A driver may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if he or she indicates that he or she suffers from such a condition on an original or renewal license application. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-02 (2013). Drivers may be required to undergo medical evaluations if they are reported to the licensing agency as potentially unfit to operate motor vehicles or if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-03-02 (2013) (generally providing for medical evaluations if licensing agency has good cause to believe driver is not competent or qualified to drive).

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

No. North Dakota has adopted no specific medical guidelines related to diabetes, except for its guidelines related to episodes of loss of consciousness. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(1) (2013) (providing that a person who has experienced convulsions, seizures, blackouts, or fainting spells due to diabetes—among other conditions—may not be licensed).

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

A driver may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if he or she has experienced loss of consciousness through convulsions, seizures, blackouts, or fainting spells due to a cardiovascular condition, epilepsy, or "metabolic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus." N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(1) (2013). However, such an individual may be issued a restricted license if (1) he or she has been episode-free for at least three months and submits a statement certifying that fact and (2) his or her physician provides a written statement indicating (a) that the condition causing the episodes is adequately controlled, (b) that the individual has been free of episodes for at least three months, and (c) that operation of a motor vehicle by the individual will not be inimical to public safety or welfare. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(2)(a)-(b) (2013). Individuals so issued restricted licenses may be subject to periodic reexaminations until they have been episode-free for at least six months. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(2) (2013). Furthermore, an individual that has been episode-free for at least six months may be issued a license if (1) he or she has been episode-free for at least six months and submits a statement certifying that fact and (2) his or her physician provides a written statement, based upon a recent examination, indicating (a) that the condition causing the episodes is adequately controlled, (b) that the individual has been free of episodes for at least six months, (c) that operation of a motor vehicle by the individual will not be inimical to public safety or welfare, and (d) that the individual is able and willing to cooperate in the treatment of the conditions causing the episodes. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(3)(a)-(b) (2013). Individuals so issued restricted or unrestricted licenses must undergo medical evaluations every 12 months—or sooner if required by the licensing agency—and submit the results to the licensing agency. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(4) (2013). An individual is not required to continue submitting periodic reevaluations if he or she (1) submits to the licensing agency a statement that he or she has not taken any medication to control episodes for at least three years and has had no episodes for at least three years and (2) submits to the licensing agency a written certification from his or her physician that he or she has been episode-free for at least three years. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(5)(a)-(b) (2013). The licensing agency may consider an individual's compliance or lack thereof with his or her treatment regimen in determining whether to grant or deny licensure. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(7) (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. A single episode will be treated as only an isolated occurrence if the opinion of the treating physician establishes that it was an isolated incident and not likely to recur. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(6) (2013). The licensing agency then will consider the physician's opinion, along with any other evidence, to determine whether the three-month episode-free period should be enforced. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(6) (2013). Also, episodes medically induced shall not be considered in determining whether to license a person who has experienced convulsions, seizures, blackouts, or fainting spells. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(7) (2013).

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

The licensing agency must notify an individual of its intention to suspend or revoke his or her license by mailing notice to his or her address, and the individual may request a hearing on the intended suspension or revocation within 10 days of the notice being mailed. N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-33(1) (2013). A hearing then will be scheduled within 60 days of the licensing agency's receipt of the request and will take place in the county of the individual's residence. N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-33(2) (2013). If the licensing agency originally had ordered a suspension of the individual's license, he or she may be required to undergo a medical evaluation. N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-33(3) (2013). If a suspension is affirmed after the hearing and, during the suspension period, the conditions precipitating the suspension dissipate, the individual may request another hearing on the issue of competence to operate a motor vehicle. N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-33(4) (2013).

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

Yes. An individual who has experienced convulsions, seizures, blackouts, or fainting spells may be issued a restricted license if (1) he or she has been episode-free for at least three months and submits a statement certifying that fact and (2) his or her physician provides a written statement indicating (a) that the condition causing the episodes is adequately controlled, (b) that the individual has been free of episodes for at least three months, and (c) that operation of a motor vehicle by the individual will not be inimical to public safety or welfare. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(2)(a)-(b) (2013). Individuals so issued restricted licenses may be subject to periodic reexaminations until they have been episode-free for at least six months. N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-01-05(2) (2013). The licensing agency also generally has authority to impose "restrictions applicable to the licensee as [it] may determine to be appropriate to assure the safe operation of a motor vehicle by the licensee." N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-17(1) (2013); N.D. Admin. Code 37-03-04-01(4) (2013) (same).

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes, with proper identification, including a valid social security number, and proof of residency. N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-03.1(1) (2013). An applicant must pay a fee of $8.00 to obtain an identification card. N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-03.1(3) (2013). An identification card is valid for a period of eight years. N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-03.1(1) (2013).

Resources

Driver licensing in North Dakota is administered by the state Department of Transportation.