Tennessee

Tennessee

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

The driver's license application (first-time and renewal) asks an applicant whether he or she has or is being treated for any physical or mental condition that would interfere with his or her ability to drive. Applicants who answer yes to this question must describe their conditions and must have medical evaluation forms filled out by their physicians. Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-50-322(a)(1)(A) (2013) (driving examination may include any further physical or mental examinations the licensing agency finds necessary to determine fitness to drive).

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, physicians, friends, relatives, other citizens, and any other reliable source of information. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(a), (b), (k)(1)-(5) (2013). The licensing agency accepts anonymous reports but investigates those that do not come from reliable sources (such as a written report from a physician or law enforcement officer) before a driver is required to undergo the medical evaluation process. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(b), (k) (2013). Drivers also may be required to have medical evaluations if they have impairments that are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process or when involved in accidents that result in a fatality, Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(a) (2013), or where investigation suggests that a medical condition may have played a role.

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 undergo a medical evaluation. When this happens, a medical evaluation form is sent to the individual, which must be completed by his or her physician. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(b)-(c) (2013). The report must be base on an examination performed within the last twelve months. The medical evaluation form has a specific section dedicated to diabetes. The form asks the physician about the date of onset of diabetes, whether the individual takes insulin, the amount and type of insulin taken, whether (and how often) the individual has suffered from coma or insulin shock, and whether the individual has any warning of oncoming insulin shock or coma. Tennessee Department of Safety, "Medical Report," (Accessed Aug. 2013). In addition, the physician is asked to provide test results such as blood sugar readings and urinalysis readings. Finally, the physician must give an opinion as to whether the individual is medically and mentally qualified to operate a motor vehicle. An additional examination by a personal eye doctor is required for all drivers with diabetes. Tennessee Department of Safety, "Medical Report," (Accessed Aug. 2013). Medical evaluation forms are returned to the licensing agency for review and a licensing decision. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(d) (2013). Periodic follow-up medical evaluations may be required yearly or at each license renewal (5 years).

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 authority granting immunity from civil or criminal liability to physicians who report or fail to report drivers with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely.

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

Medical evaluation forms are reviewed by non-medical licensing agency personnel, who may make licensing decisions based on that information. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(d) (2013). If the physician documents that the driver does not have a medical problem, related to driving, the case may be closed, or referred to the state's independent Medical Advisory Board to reconcile any differences between the complaint and the physician's statement. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(e) (2013). Negative recommendations from a physician may also be referred to the board. The Medical Advisory Board may review medical forms and make licensing recommendations, although the licensing agency makes the final decision. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(e)(1)-(3), (h) (2013).

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

An individual may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if he or she gives affirmative answers to medical questions on a license application. Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-50-322(a)(1)(A) (2013). An individual may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if he or she is reported to the licensing agency as a potentially unsafe driver, Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(b), (k)(1)-(5) (2013), or if licensing agency personnel make observations during the licensing process that raise cause for a medical evaluation. An individual also may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if he or she suffers from uncontrolled epilepsy, momentary lapses of consciousness or control due to epilepsy, another seizure disorder, or diabetes. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(i) (2013).

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

Yes. The licensing agency will not issue a driver's license to anyone who suffers from diabetes until he or she has remained seizure-free for a period of one year and then only upon receipt of a favorable medical statement from his or her physician. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(i) (2013). However, an individual may be approved for driving privileges if his or her condition has been controlled for six months; the licensing agency receives a favorable recommendation from his or her physician; and the Medical Review Board and the licensing agency approve the issuance of the driver's license. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(i) (2013). Additionally, the licensing agency may impose an "Insulin-dependent Diabetic" restriction on an individual's license, requiring that a statement from a medical doctor be maintained on file. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-13-.20(4) (2013).

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

The licensing agency will not issue a driver's license to anyone who suffers from uncontrolled epilepsy, momentary lapses of consciousness or control due to epilepsy, or another seizure disorder until he or she has remained seizure-free or lapse-free for a period of one year and then only upon receipt of a favorable medical statement from his or her physician. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(i) (2013). However, an individual may be approved for driving privileges if his or her condition has been controlled for six months; the licensing agency receives a favorable recommendation from his or her physician; and the Medical Review Board and the licensing agency approve the issuance of the driver's license. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(i)) (2013). A driver may be immediately suspended until he or she submits a satisfactory medical statement if he or she admits to a history of seizures or other conditions that affects driving ability or a third party has witnessed the his or her inability to drive because of a seizure or other condition and submits such information to the licensing agency. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(k)(1), (3) (2013). Any medical statement submitted must contain the following information: the cause of the seizures, lapses, blackouts, or loss of consciousness or control; the frequency of the seizures, lapses, blackouts, or loss of consciousness or control; the medication taken, if any, and the affect the medication will have on the individual's ability to drive; the individual's compliance with treatment or medication; and the physician's recommendation regarding driving ability. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(j)(1)-(5) (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. An individual may be approved for driving privileges before the one-year episode-free period has elapsed if his or her condition has been controlled for six months; the licensing agency receives a favorable recommendation from his or her physician; and the Medical Review Board and the licensing agency approve the issuance of the driver's license. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(i) (2013).

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

An individual whose license has been suspended or denied may appeal the decision by requesting an administrative hearing. The request must be made to the licensing agency within 30 days of written notice of the proposed suspension action. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-4-.06(2)(p) (2013). A petition for appeal from the outcome of the hearing must be filed within 15 days. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-5-315(b), -317(a) (2013). The second administrative decision is a final order, and a petition for review in a chancery court must be filed within 60 days. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-5-317(e), -322(b)(1)(A) (2013). An aggrieved party may obtain review of the final order of the chancery court by appealing to the court of appeals of Tennessee. Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-323(a) (2013).

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

Whenever good cause appears, the licensing agency may impose restrictions on an individual's license "to assure the safe operation of a motor vehicle by the applicant." Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-13-.20(1) (2013).

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes, with proper identification. Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-50-321(a) (2011); Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-13-.11(3) (2013). Payment of a $6.00 fee is required to obtain an identification card. Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-50-323(a)(6)(A) (2011); Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-13-.11(4) (2013) (providing for payment of a specified fee). An identification card is valid for a five-year period. Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-50-337(a) (2013). Identification cards issued to individuals 65 years of age or older shall not expire. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 55-50-323(a)(6)(A), -337(b) (2011). An individual is not permitted to hold a driver's license and an identification card concurrently. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1340-1-13-.11(5) (2013).

Resources

Driver's licensing in Tennessee is administered by the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security.