When a doctor documents that a person is "no longer safe to drive," what are the legal ramifications is that person gets into an accident?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 27, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Once a physician documents that a person has been told "you are no longer safe to drive", what are the legal ramifications of an individual that gets in a wreck who has Parkinson's?


Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

The legal ramifications of a doctor's assessment of unsafety depend on where the person lives.

The matter is controlled by state law"”and states are all over the board. In some states, doctor's are legally bound to report a patient they perceive as unsafe to the local DMV. Other states take the opposite approach: forbidding doctors from reporting on the reasoning that their medical information is private and must stay that way. And some states have a hybrid law"”essentially stating that a doctor "may" report an unsafe condition, but leaving it up to a family member or other person to take action with the licensing authorities. Nearly every state allows a friend or relative to file a report of unsafe driving as well.

The report to the driving authorities is where the legal ramifications come in. Once they receive a report of a suspicion of unsafe driving, they must investigate it. Usually, this involves summoning the person to the DMV and requiring additional vision, driving and written tests"”and often requires another written assessment from a doctor.

If the driving authorities decide the person can keep his or her license, they will sometimes put conditions on it, such as: "No driving after sunset." Or "o driving more than 10 miles from home," or some such.

If the driver ignores the restrictions or if the authorities pull his or her license completely but he or she continues behind the wheel, there are often severe legal sanctions.

To find out the law in place in your state, contact the local DMV; some have good websites describing their laws"”and all have dedicated lines to answer consumer questions.