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General Assembly 2017 DMV Update
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VSEPS Fights for Increased DMV Vision Requirements & Protections for Healthcare Professionals Who Report Impaired Drivers to DMV

Continued from the homepage

 

 

VSEPS joined forces with the Medical Society of Virginia to advocate for legislation to improve driver safety and to protect physicians and other healthcare providers who report impaired drivers to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The impetus behind these public safety efforts was VSEPS member and Richmond based pediatric ophthalmologist, Ed Wortham, MD, whose daughter was killed by a vision-impaired driver. VSEPS worked with Juan Astruc, MD, who served on the DMV’s medical board, Dr. Wortham, and the Medical Society of Virginia to pursue reforms.

 

Delegate Buddy Fowler and Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, MD introduced legislation in the Virginia General Assembly to increase the minimum visual acuity from 100 from 100 degrees to 110 degrees of horizontal vision in at least one eye, to obtain a driver’s license.  House Bill 1504/Senate Bill 1229 passed this year’s the General Assembly.  Drs. Wortham and Suzanne Everhart, VSEPS President, testified before a House of Delegates Transportation subcommittee in support of this legislation.

 

Visual field is one of the most important aspects of visual function related to driving ability and safety. Persons with visual field loss are at higher risk for accidents and crashes. Most studied U.S. states and foreign countries adhere to or recommend a minimum visual field requirement of 120 degrees or better for both eyes (binocular). Many states with a binocular visual field requirement stipulate 140 degrees.

 

These newly-legislated standards approach recommendations for minimum visual field requirements and are within the current testing capabilities of DMV screening equipment. The Virginia DMV supports this legislation, and will convene a working group to study further related changes for enhanced driver and road safety.  

 

Delegate Fowler and Senator Dunnavant also introduced House Bill 1514/Senate Bill 1024, to expand civil liability protections for reporting disabled drivers.  Some people have disabilities or other vision or medical conditions that seriously impair their ability to safely operate a vehicle. Current law states that a physician who reports such a condition to the DMV in good faith shall not be deemed to have violated the physician-patient privilege of confidentiality.

Many physicians and health practitioners don’t always feel comfortable and protected when making the very serious decision to report drivers to DMV, which could result in a restricted or suspended license for those impaired patients. This legislation was passed to encourage Virginia’s health professionals to report when they believe that the health of their patient might make driving a threat to public safety.

 

This legislation expands the categories of health care professionals who may report patients to DMV for further evaluation if their condition might make it unsafe to operate a vehicle. It clarifies that those practitioners making that report are not violating health privacy (HIPAA) laws or the practitioner-patient privilege. The liability protection is specific to these points only. It changes nothing else about the current law or process for DMV review of driver disabilities.

House Bill 1504/Senate Bill 1229:  Increases minimum visual acuity from 100 degrees to 110 degrees of horizontal vision in at least one eye, to obtain a driver’s license.

HB 1504: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=171&typ=bil&val=hb1504

SB 1229: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=171&typ=bil&val=sb1229



For more details about the DMV Medical Review Process, click here.

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