Tips for Medical Professionals with Older Patients
Adapted from the American Medical Association
Whether to report an older driver whose driving skills are significantly impaired is a difficult decision for a medical professional. There can be a conflict between the need to protect confidentiality of your patient and your duty to protect public safety. A decision can be much easier if you are aware about the laws of the state where you practice. You should know the requirements for mandatory reports of physical or mental impairments of drivers. It is also very important to consult with a legal adviser about your obligations.
Below are some tips adapted from the American Medical Association (AMA) on this issue.
- If you think an older driver is at immediate risk of having a motor vehicle crash or doing injury to others, you can call the police and give the dispatcher details.
Normally in these cases:
- The police cannot arrest or detain the driver if the driver has not committed a violation and is not impaired by alcohol or drugs.
- If there is no violation, but the driver is clearly impaired, the police officer will try to convince the person not to drive. The police officer may determine that the driver needs to be transported to a medical facility for examination.
- Using NYS DMV form DS-5, a police officer can refer the driver to the DMV for a driver re-evaluation that can include a re-test of the driver.
- If a violation occurred, the police could instead issue a traffic ticket.
- Consider if temporary conditions or conditions that can be treated are the cause of driving problems for your patient:
- Does the patient need new eyeglasses?
- Is the patient having problems due to grief or increased stress?
- Is the patient taking a new medication that might affect mental state or physical well-being?
- An excellent resource for medical professionals is the Physician's Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers. You can download the Guide from the American Medical Association or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .
- You can request a driving evaluation by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist to evaluate the driving abilities of the patient. A CDRS is an occupational therapist who can evaluate driving skills. The CDRS can make recommendations to improve driving, or, if indicated, recommend that the patient discontinue driving. To locate the specialists in your area, go to the web site of the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. or the web site of the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists .
You can read more about driver assessments and evaluations at the NYS DMV web site.
- You can complete and send the DMV form DS-6 (Medical Statement for Medical Review Unit). The DMV Driver Improvement Bureau reviews the form and the Medical Review Unit in the Bureau takes the appropriate actions. You must sign the form, and your identity is not protected under the Freedom of Information Law.
If a physician reports a condition that can affect the driving safety of a patient, the DMV can suspend the driver license. The suspension remains in effect until a physician certifies that the condition has been treated or controlled and does not currently affect driving ability.
If the DMV receives a report from a source that is not a physician, the DMV considers each case separately and does not take action without a DMV re-evaluation of the driver.
- When an older driver discontinues driving, it helps if there is a plan for their continued ability to be mobile and independent. To stop driving after many years is a big adjustment. To help make the change easier, you can give the patient advice about other methods of transportation.