Diabetes and Driving
I have represented more than 50 drivers whose licenses have been suspended based on a finding by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) that their diabetes caused them to be unsafe drivers. In every case I have handled so far I have been able to demonstrate to the DMV that the driver in question could drive safely and the diabetes based suspension was ended or set aside.
Depending on the reason for the suspension, the time and effort needed to end it, and the likelihood for being able to end it, will vary. Some drivers have their license suspended simply for having suffered hypoglycemia and being helped by an ambulance or an emergency room physician who reported the incident to the DMV. In many cases these incidents have nothing all to do with driving and the key to ending the suspension is to demonstrate that while hypoglycemia is an ongoing risk to some extent, safe driving is not because the driver regularly tests blood sugars before driving, is able to recognize symptoms of low blood sugar, and has been trained in handling a low blood sugar event that occurs while driving. Other cases require the client to take the time and make the effort either to educate themselves better about safe driving and proper precautions, or to regain the ability to recognize symptoms of hypoglycemia, or work with health care practitioners on issues related to diet, handling blood sugar levels, or related emotional issues.
The key to ending a license suspension in California is having the driver’s physician fill out and sign a five page Driver’s Medical Evaluation (“DME”) affirming his or her belief that the patient can drive safely. (see below to obtain a copy of a State of California DME form) It is important that these reports be reviewed carefully before they are provided to the DMV because it is not uncommon for a busy physician to make a mistake in filling out the form. Doctors are not normally paid to fill out forms such as these, and doing so is not a traditional form of health care, so physicians are not always inclined to focus on them carefully and this can lead to an unfair suspension. For example, I have represented more than one driver with diabetes whose license was suspended after a physician advised the DMV that the patient’s diabetes was poorly controlled, without also explaining that while this damaged the patient’s health and put them at great risk for future medical problems, it did not make them an unsafe driver.
Here are sites to two articles I’ve written on driving and diabetes that were published in the magazine Diabetes Health which further explain these issues:
Here are articles I’ve written that were published in the Taking Control of Your Diabetes newsletter which discuss the question of advising the California Department of Motor Vehicles about your diabetes when filling out a license renewal form:
To get a copy of the State of California Driver Medical Evaluation form for you and your physician to fill out, you can go to the website here for the Department of Motor Vehicles:
Once at the site look to the left side and go down five lines until you see Forms and click it. Then look to the section called Driver Safety and go down five lines until you see Driver Medical Evaluation. That is the form you and your physician will need to fill out and provide to the DMV to avoid or end a suspension.
You can also find sample written driving tests so you can practice for a written exam on the DMV site, as well as a great deal of information about driving laws, including references and citations to the laws themselves.