Louisiana

Louisiana

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

Yes. The driver's license application (first-time and renewal) asks the applicant whether he or she has any mental or physical conditions that could impair his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle and if the applicant has ever experienced a loss of consciousness other than normal sleep. See La. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles, "Application for License or Identification Card," DPSMV 2003 (Rev. 10/12). Listed physical infirmities do not mention diabetes, but do include "shakiness." Id. If an applicant answers yes to either question, he or she is required to have a medical evaluation form completed by his or her physician. See La. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles "Medical Examination Form," DPSMV 2032 (R 04/04). All first time applicants for a license with disabling medical conditions such as diabetes must have a medical evaluation prior to licensing, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:403.2 (2013), and any individual over the age of 60 who is applying for a Louisiana license for the first time must have a medical evaluation form completed by a physician, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:403.1 (2013). The licensing agency may waive this requirement for renewal applicants, unless the application is for a commercial driver's license. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:403.2 (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, the courts, family members who have firsthand knowledge of the individual's driving abilities, and hospitals. Members of the public may make reports. The report must be based on personal observation or physical evidence and contain a description of the incident, condition, investigation, or complaint that brought the driver to the reporter's attention. See La. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles, "Report of Driver Condition or Behavior," Form DPSMV 3005 (Rev. 7/05). Drivers also may be required to undergo medical evaluations if they have impairments which are observed by licensing agency personnel during the licensing process, if they are involved in accidents where there is evidence that an impairment may have been involved, or when they apply for handicapped parking permits.

What is the process for medical evaluations of drivers?

When the licensing agency has reason to believe that a driver may be medically unqualified to drive, 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 have a medical evaluation. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:424(A)(1) (2013). The driver then must undergo a medical evaluation within 10 days of receiving notice of the licensing agency's decision.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:424(A)(1) (2013). An evaluation form is sent to the individual, which must be completed by his or her physician. La. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles "Medical Examination Form," DPSMV 2032 (R 04/04).

The medical evaluation form asks questions about the individual's medical history, medications taken, and whether or not the individual is reliable in taking medications and complying with the treatment regimen. Id. The form includes detailed questions about diabetes. Id. (see below for details). The physician is asked to provide a medical opinion regarding the patient's ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, whether periodic medical reports should be issued, and at what interval. Medical evaluation forms must be returned to the licensing agency, where they are evaluated and a licensing decision is made. See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:424(A) (2013). Periodic follow-up medical evaluations may be required, primarily based on the recommendation of the physician.

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 the state licensing agency. However, an individual with a disability is required to report his or her disability when initially applying for a driver's license. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:403.2 (2013) ("Every physically or mentally handicapped person applying for a license…for the first time shall attach to his application a detailed medical report…from a duly licensed physician indicating the severity of his disability and the limitations imposed thereby which might impair the applicant's ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the operation of a motor vehicle.").

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

Physicians who report drivers with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely are immune from civil or criminal liability for providing such information to the licensing agency or the Medical Advisory Board, absent malice and in the reasonable belief that such action is warranted to protect the public. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1356(B) (2013).

Who makes decisions about whether drivers are medically qualified?

Generally, decisions are made by licensing agency employees based on their review of the information submitted. If a physician states that an individual cannot safely operate a motor vehicle, then that individual will be denied a license or have his or her license suspended. If a physician states that an individual may not be able to safely operate a motor vehicle, then that case will be referred to the state's independent Medical Advisory Board (MAB). See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1355(A) (2013). If the physician indicates that the individual can safely operate a motor vehicle or does not make a recommendation, the decision will be made based on state medical standards. (See below for detailed information). However, where the information in the medical report is questionable, where licensing agency employees are unable to make a decision, or where the driver has previously been denied a license because of a medical condition, the case will be referred to the medical board. See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1355(A) (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 is applying for his or her first license in Louisiana and (1) has a disability that could affect his or her ability to drive safely, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:403.2 (2013), or (2) is 60 years of age or older, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:403.1 (2013). Furthermore, an individual may be required to submit to a medical evaluation whenever the licensing agency has good cause to believe that he or she is incompetent or otherwise not qualified to be licensed. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:424(A) (2013). A driver may be required to undergo a medical evaluation following the submission of a driver report form to the licensing agency. See La. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles, "Report of Driver Condition or Behavior," Form DPSMV 3005 (Rev. 7/05). Drivers also may be required to undergo medical evaluations if they are involved in accidents where there is evidence that an impairment may have been involved, or when they apply for handicapped parking permits.

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

Louisiana has not adopted any specific guidelines related to the issuance of driver's licenses to persons with diabetes. Licensing decisions about persons with diabetes are made based primarily on the physicians' recommendation. However, the medical evaluation form required for first-time applicants with disabilities asks whether the applicant is diabetic. La. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles "Medical Examination Form," DPSMV 2032 (R 04/04). The form asks for details: whether insulin or oral medication is used to manage the condition, recent urine and blood sugar levels, whether the applicant has experienced diabetic coma, insulin shock, or other incidental effects of diabetes, whether the applicant "has hypoglycemia," whether the applicant is reliable in following his or her medication regime and whether his or her diabetes is controlled. Id. Unless the physician indicates an obvious hazard such as abnormal loss of consciousness or unstable vision, the application is usually approved. Questionable cases are presented for review by the Medical Advisory Board. See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1355(A) (2013).

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

Louisiana has no specific policies about loss of consciousness related to diabetes and does not impose a specific episode-free time period. However, the application for a driver's license or ID card asks whether an individual has ever experienced any loss of consciousness other than normal sleep, and if an applicant responds affirmatively, he or she is required to undergo a medical evaluation. See La. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles, "Application for License or Identification Card," DPSMV 2003 (Rev. 10/12). The Medical Examination Form asks whether the applicant has epilepsy and about the nature and frequency of his or her seizures. See La. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles "Medical Examination Form," DPSMV 2032 (R 04/04). As mentioned above, the form asks about incidences of "diabetic coma," "insulin shock," and "hypoglycemia." Id. The physician's recommendation is the primary factor in making driving ability determinations.

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?

No. There is no statutorily specified waiver of the policy regarding the licensure of drivers subject to loss of consciousness.

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

A driver whose license has been suspended or restricted for medical conditions or functional impairments may seek review in an administrative hearing by filing a written request with the licensing agency within 30 days of the date on which notice was mailed or hand delivered. La. Admin. Code tit. 55, § 118(C) (2013). A driver also may file within 30 days of the licensing agency's decision an application for a hearing before the district court of the parish in which he or she resides. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:414(F)(4) (2013). The court then may schedule a hearing upon 10 days' written notice to the licensing agency. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:414(F)(4) (2013). Appeal from the decision of the district court may be taken to any court of competent appellate jurisdiction. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:414(F)(4) (2013).

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

No probationary licenses are issued. However, the licensing agency may, whenever good cause appears, impose restrictions applicable to the licensee as the agency may determine to be appropriate to assure the safe operation of a motor vehicle by the licensee. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:423(A) (2013).

Is an identification card available for non-drivers?

Yes, with proper identification and payment of a fee. The fee is $21.00 but may vary at local offices, and no fee is assessed for persons over age 65. Furthermore, any person may, if they wish, carry an identification card bearing his or her name, type of medical condition, physician's name, and other medical information. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1299.73(B) (2013).

Resources

Driver licensing in Louisiana is administered by the Office of Motor Vehicles in the state Department of Public Safety.