Washington

Washington

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 a mental or physical condition or takes medication that could impair driving ability. Washington Department of Licensing, "Driver License Replacement/Renewal Request While Out-of-State," Form DLE-520-008 (Rev. 09/2012). Applicants who answer yes to this question must have medical evaluation forms filled out by their physicians. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.041(1)(b) (2013) (authorizing evaluations if person suffers from a physical or mental disability or disease affecting ability to drive). Making a false statement on this application is a crime, punishable as a gross misdemeanor. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.091(2) (2013); Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.72.040 (describing false swearing offense). Applicants are also asked if they have experienced loss of consciousness or control within the recent past. If the answer is yes, the licensing agency may require a medical examination. For more information, see Washington Department of Licensing, "Getting a driver license: Medical and vision screening," (Accessed Sept. 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, medical professionals, and concerned citizens. Washington Department of Licensing, "Driver Evaluation Request," Form DR-500-008 (Rev. 03/2012). The licensing agency does not accept anonymous reports and will provide all forms to the driver upon written request. The agency investigates all reports to ensure that sufficient information has been provided to clearly indicate potential medical or physical problems. Washington Department of Licensing, "Driver Evaluation Request," Form DR-500-008 (Rev. 03/2012). Drivers also may be required to undergo medical evaluations if they have impairments that are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, Wash. Rev. Code §§ 46.20.041(1), .305(1) (2013), or if they cause fatalities or serious injuries during collisions, Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.305(2)-(3) (2013); Wash. Rev. Code § 46.52.070(2)-(3). For more information, see Washington Department of Licensing, "Report unsafe drivers," (Accessed Sept. 2013).

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 affirmative answers to medical questions on the license application or because of a report from one of the other sources listed above, it will require him or her to undergo a medical evaluation. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.305(1) (2013). When this occurs, a Physical Examination Report form is given to the individual, which then must be completed by his or her physician within 30 days based on an examination conducted within the last three months. Washington Department of Licensing, "Physical Examination Report," DR-500-035 (Rev. 01/2011). The Physical Examination Report asks a physician whether the individual has a condition that may cause a loss of consciousness or control; whether the individual has a condition that may interfere with driving; and whether the individual should be required to submit periodical medical examination reports as a condition of licensing. If a condition causing loss of consciousness or control is indicated, the physician must provide the date of the last such episode. Washington Department of Licensing, "Physical Examination Report," DR-500-035 (Rev. 01/2011). Physical Examination Report forms are returned to the licensing agency for review and licensing decisions. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.041(2)-(3) (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. Physicians may voluntarily report unsafe drivers. Wash. Dep't. of Licensing, "Driver Evaluation Request," Form DR-500-008 (Rev. 03/2012) (providing a special section for physician requests for evaluation).

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

There is no statutory authority providing immunity from civil or criminal liability for physicians who report or fail to report drivers with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely to a central state agency. However, the Washington Supreme Court has ruled against personal liability for reporting physicians and medical organizations. See Tumelson v. Todhunter, 716 P.2d 890, 893 (Wash. 1986). ("[T]he purpose of RCW 46.20.041…reflects a common concern of highway safety by encouraging physicians to report completely and truthfully regarding the fitness of their patients to drive without fear of subsequent liability.")

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

The licensing agency retains ultimate authority over all licensing decisions, and licensing agency personnel make all licensing decisions generally based on physician recommendations and state medical guidelines. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.291 (2013) (authorizing the licensing agency to suspend individuals' licenses); Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.207(1) (2013) (authorizing the licensing agency to cancel individuals' licenses). Washington does not have a Medical Advisory Board.

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 responds affirmatively to medical questions on the license application. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.041(1)(b) (2013). An individual also may be required to undergo a medical evaluation if he or she is reported to the licensing agency as a potentially unsafe driver. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.305(1) (2013). Drivers also may be required to undergo medical evaluations if they have impairments that are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, Wash. Rev. Code §§ 46.20.041(1), .305(1) (2013), or if they cause fatalities or serious injuries during collisions. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.305(2)-(3) (2013).

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

No. Washington has not adopted specific medical guidelines related to diabetes.

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

There are no specific statutory or regulatory policies related to loss of consciousness. According to the Epilepsy Foundation and 2003 survey results, to be eligible for licensing, an individual must be seizure-free or free from episodes of loss of consciousness for six months. When the licensing agency learns that an individual has experienced an episode of loss of consciousness within the preceding six months, his or her license will be suspended and he or she may be required to undergo a medical examination. The individual may submit new documentation at any time that his or her condition is controlled. Epilepsy Foundation, "Driving Laws by State," 2011 (Accessed Sept. 2013); TransAnalytics, LLC, "Summary of Medical Advisory Board Practices in the United States," June 18, 2003 (Accessed Sept. 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?

There are no specific statutory or regulatory policies related to loss of consciousness. According to the Epilepsy Foundation and 2003 survey results, an individual's doctor may waive the six-month episode-free requirement if changes in treatment or dosage precipitated an episode of loss of consciousness. Epilepsy Foundation, "Driving Laws by State," 2011 (Accessed Sept. 2013); TransAnalytics, LLC, "Summary of Medical Advisory Board Practices in the United States," June 18, 2003 (Accessed Sept. 2013).

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

In cases of mandatory suspension or revocation, the licensing agency must notify an individual of the proposed action at least 45 days before it suspends or revokes his or her license. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.245(1) (2013). An individual then may request an administrative review of the proposed licensing order by submitting a written request no more than 15 days after receiving notice of the proposed action. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.245(2) (2013). In cases of discretionary suspension or revocation, the licensing agency will conduct a driver improvement interview not more than 10 days after notifying an individual of a proposed suspension or revocation. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 46.20.322(1), .323 (2013). Within 10 days following a driver improvement interview, an individual may submit a written request for a formal hearing. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.328 (2013). The licensing agency will notify the individual of the time and place of the hearing within 10 days of receiving a written request. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.329 (2013). Any proposed suspension or revocation will be stayed pending the outcome of the hearing, except in cases where the proposed order is based upon physical or mental incapacity or failure to successfully complete an examination. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.329 (2013). Within 30 days following a formal hearing, an individual may appeal to the superior court in the county of his or her residence. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.334 (2013).

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

Yes. The licensing agency may either issue a special restricted license or may set forth the restrictions upon the usual license form regarding an individual suffering from a physical or mental disability that affects his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.041(2)-(3) (2013). For more information, see Washington Department of Licensing, "Restricted driver licenses," (Accessed Sept. 2013).

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes, with proper identification and payment of a fee. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.035(1) (2013) (specifying acceptable identifying documents for obtaining an identification card). A $54.00 fee is required to obtain an identification card, unless the applicant currently receives public assistance. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.117(1)(c) (2013). Identification cards are valid for periods of six years. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.117(2)(b) (2013). An individual may not hold a driver's license and an identification card concurrently. Wash. Rev. Code § 46.20.117(1)(a) (2013). For more information, see Washinton Department of Licensing,ID Cards," (Accessed Sept. 2013).

Resources

Driver licensing in Washington is administered by the Driver Responsibility/Driver Examining unit within the state Department of Licensing.