NTSB Backs Greater Oversight of Drivers with High-Risk Medical Conditions

November 11, 2004

In a report adopted this week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that certain medical conditions can increase a driver’s accident risk and are incompatible with unrestricted operation of motor vehicles.

In order to better evaluate the impact of certain medical conditions on a person’s ability to drive, the Board asked for a national system to collect accident data including information regarding medical conditions of the drivers involved.

The Board noted that aside from alcohol addiction, the extent to which medical impairment contributes to the number of traffic accidents is not well defined. Therefore the Board recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) develop a procedure to collect, evaluate and report data regarding the impact of drivers’ medical conditions on traffic accidents.

NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners noted, “Safety should never rely on guesswork. It is critical to collect data and facts which will form the basis for the policy making which affects potentially millions of people.”

The study examined six accidents involving drivers with medical conditions that caused seizures or blackouts while driving. In addition to the call for more data, the Board noted that many physicians involved with patient care are not knowledgeable about their State’s reporting policies or about the evaluation of a patient’s fitness to drive. The Board noted that the purpose of the study was to enable individuals to be licensed in accordance with their abilities.

As a result the Board recommended that medical schools include training on the driving risks associated with certain medical conditions and medications as well as proper driving fitness assessment techniques. The Board also asked the Federation of State Medical Boards to ensure that continuing medical education requirements include a course addressing medical conditions and driving risks.

The board also noted that law enforcement personnel are generally unaware that medical impairments can contribute to the occurrence of an accident. It is therefore important for officers to receive awareness training to help them identify and refer medically high-risk drivers to the licensing authority for further assessment.

The report recommended that the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies work with NHTSA Safety Administration, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, and the American Medical Association to develop a training program to help police officers identify common medical conditions that can impair a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle and then promote this training to all new and veteran officers.

An examination of State oversight systems for drivers with medical conditions reportedly found inconsistencies in the way high-risk drivers are identified and evaluated. The report determined that there exists no uniform process to identify, report, assess, license or counsel drivers with high-risk medical conditions.

The report recommended that NHTSA and AAMVA develop a model comprehensive medical oversight program for States to use to enable individuals with medical conditions to be licensed to the extent of their abilities.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.