NTSB targets medical oversight of noncommercial drivers

| 12/1/2004

The National Transportation Safety Board has begun formally issuing its recommendations on improving the medical oversight of non-commercial drivers.

Non-commercial drivers and the medical conditions that can impair driving took the limelight in a special investigation conducted by the NTSB. Conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease as well as many more were singled out as having some impact on a driver’s ability to drive safely and effectively.

The investigation revealed that issues encompassing the medical oversight of noncommercial drivers are complex and that it would require close cooperation of federal, state and private organizations to create an effective and uniform system that protects public safety while being sensitive to the needs of individual drivers.

One of the recently issued recommendations was addressed to the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. It stressed the need to develop a training program to help police officers identify common medical conditions that can impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle and then promote the training to all officers, new and veteran.

Two recommendations tackled the physicians’ roles in improving the oversight. The NTSB recommended ensuring that continuing medical education requirements in all states include a course addressing the driving risks associated with certain medical conditions and medications, as well as the existence and function of state reporting laws and procedures regarding medically impaired drivers.

The other physician-oriented recommendation addressed to three different agencies simply recommended to teach medical students – while in school – the driving risks associated with certain medical conditions, the existence of state laws regarding the high-risk drivers, and methods and resources for counseling such drivers.

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances received a recommendation from the NTSB encouraging the agency to work with the National Association of Attorneys General to develop a model law that provides immunity from liability for any person who, in good faith, reports a driver with a potentially impairing medical condition. The recommendation also encourages the states to include this law in their statutes.

The NTSB issued another recommendation concerning the need for licensing agencies to determine current and previous medically related actions on a driver’s license, as well as any current medically related restrictions.

Acknowledging the fact that by restricting or removing a person’s ability to drive could negatively impact that person’s ability to function in society, the NTSB also issued a recommendation to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It pointed to the need to develop alternative transportation programs for medically impaired people of all ages who can no longer drive.