Sunday, September 2, 2012

Medical Conditions that Can Cause a New York Driver License Suspension



As a New York Defense attorney (and Doctor of Chiropractic) who focuses his practice on cars and drugs I deal with the DMV a lot. They have their own set of rules, procedures, and regulations which must be followed. Some of it unfortunately is highly subjective.

Everyone Has One, an Opinion

Medical and legal opinions are often just that "opinions." I love medico-legal issues because they are contestable. They are subject to change on a person by person basis or a case by case basis. Give two doctors or two lawyers the same set of facts and guidelines, and you may have more than two opinions. If we could all agree on everything we would have no need for hearings, trials, judges, and juries. These medical opinions have weight based upon the facts in back of them (tests performed, your medical history, medical testing, differential diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, medical stability, etc.) Reasonable, balanced, and rational medical opinions have more weight on the scale. Have greater credence (credibility) and therefore integrity (completeness).

The Importance of WEIGHT: Proof in an Administrative License Suspensions

First thing you must be aware of is that the NYS DMV is an administration. It is not a court of law. The level of proof necessary to award or to lose a license to drive is slightly better than the civil standard of "preponderance of the evidence." Meaning, just a slight tilt to one side of the scales of justice will win or lose the day. This is why the weight of any opinion or opinions is so vitally important. How and what information is presented to the DMV, it's examiners, and medical review unit can affect your driving privileges.

Conditions that Can Affect Your License Privileges

Remember that the mere diagnosis of a disease or condition is NOT the most important aspect but rather how that condition is affecting (impacting) your ABILITY to drive. This is called your Fitness to Drive. 

Regardless of your diagnosis, are YOUR Medical Conditions OR functional impairments causing you to be an UNsafe driver? Are you fit to drive physically and mentally?



How can Your Driving Privileges be Placed up for Review?


ONE (first timers and renewers) 

Those drivers filling out NYS DMV form MV44 for First time license application or Renewal of NYS driver's license are asked specific questions regarding your medical history.


The original driver’s license application asks:

“Have you had, or are you being treated for any of the following, or has a previous
disability worsened? If ‘Yes,’ check all that apply.”

·  Convulsive disorder, epilepsy, fainting or dizzy spells, or any condition which
causes unconsciousness.  
·  Heart ailment.
·  Hearing impairment.
·  Lost use of leg, arm, foot, hand, or eye.
·  Other.

The renewal driver’s license application asks the same question, but also asks whether any of these conditions have been experienced or have worsened since you received your last license?

Word definitions and reading comprehension are KEY HERE: That "Causes" Unconsciousness, treated for, or worsened.

TWO (the accident prone)

Drivers with too many accidents. It does not matter who is "at fault" for these accidents. The DMV does not investigate that (cause/fault) but will record all of them on your DMV driving history. Three strikes and you are out in baseball and with the DMV. 

Three accidents in nine months is an automatic RE-examination. This consists of a vision test, a written test, and a road test.

THREE (family, friends, police, drs report you)

Reports: The DMV receives information about your medical conditions from:

  • accident reports, 
  • doctors reports, 
  • police reports, or 
  • reports your family, or 
  • from someone (concerned citizen) who knows you.  

Any of these people may feel you pose a safety risk to yourself and others by continuing to drive. And place your privileges subject to a REVIEW.

Judging Conditions Affect on Functional Ability

Judging someone's Functional Ability to Drive as I stated earlier can be Subjective but for a general guide (every case is different) I have gone over some common conditions below:

1. Diabetes (aka high blood sugar): If unregulated and unstable can cause coma, unconsciousness, and loss of functional ability to drive. Diabetics with peripheral neuropathy can lose feeling in the feet and legs as well. 

Questions: Are you stable? With or without insulin stimulating agent or insulin, or diet?
Severe, Unstable, Insulin dependent = NO driving

2. Cardio-Vascular Conditions: Angina, Class III or Class IV Unstable arrhythmia (problem with the heart rate or rhythm), Hypertension (high blood pressure). 

Questions: Are you fully recovered and stable? Class IV arrhythmia with loss of consciousness and uncontrolled HTN (hypertension) = NO driving

3. Pulmonary Conditions: Symptoms on activity, on steroids, stable with o2.

Questions: Do you have Severe dyspnea (shortness of breath/labored or difficult to breath), syncope (fainting/loss of consciousness) = NO driving

4. Neurologic Conditions: Neuropathy, radiculopathy, CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome), peripheral neuropathy, etc.

Neurological impairment that greatly affects safety = NO driving

5. Learning Memory, Psychiatric, Emotional Conditions: difficulty with thinking, judgment, adjustment, risk assessment

Questions: Are you severely impaire and have poor judgment = NO driving
Do you have an active condition with risk = NO driving

6. Alcohol and Other Drugs: Chronic use of alcohol and/or drugs

Question: History of ongoing dependency on drugs and/or alcohol = NO driving

7. Musculoskeletal Conditions: Loss of function, impairment, debility

Question: Do you have a chronic condition that makes you unsafe = NO driving

8. Alertness or Sleep Disorder: Sleep apnea, narcolepsy, unstable, severe problem

Question: Have doctors diagnosed you and found that medication and/or treatment for your condition was unsuccessful? = NO driving

9. Hearing and Balance Conditions: recurring problems, untreated, dizziness, spinning sensation

Question: Do you have a chronic severe and unstable balance problem? = NO driving


10. Epilepsy/Episodic Condition: seizures, recurrence rate

Question: Do you have uncontrolled seizures or interfering (with your ability) medications?
= NO driving 

As you can see the list of diseases and potential conditions that can cause a license suspension are extensive. A review of your medical records, history, and documentation may be in order to see if something (disease, condition, disorder) has been mischaracterized by your healthcare providers. Sometimes it all a matter of clearing things up, demonstrating stability, and having testing/review to prove your ability.


         Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., J.D.
Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
607-229-5184