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Pennsylvania's medical reporting law addresses older-driver safety

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, once a driver reaches the age of 70, the rate at which she or he is in a car accident begins to rise gradually each year until the age of 80. After 80, the car crash rate begins to increase rapidly. In fact, only teenagers and people in their 20s have more car crashes per mile driven than drivers in their 80s, and drivers age 85 and older are involved in more fatal car accidents per mile driven than any other age group.

Because it is predicted that by 2030 a quarter of all licensed drivers will be over 65 years old, the federal government is recommending states to takes action now to address the growing problem of older-driver safety. So far 30 states and the District of Columbia have followed the federal government's recommendation and enacted laws targeting older drivers. The approaches have varied widely, with some states requiring mandatory eye exams for drivers over a certain age while others have shortened the time between renewals. In Pennsylvania, the legislature chose to address the problem of motor vehicle collisions caused by older-driver by enacting a medical reporting law.

Pennsylvania's medical reporting law

In Pennsylvania, health care personnel are required by law to report to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) the full name, date of birth and address of every person over 15 years of age diagnosed as having a disorder or disability that could impair her or his ability to drive.

The Pennsylvania Vehicle Code defines health care personnel as "physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, physician assistants, certified registered nurse practitioners and other persons authorized to diagnose or treat disorders and disabilities..." A health care provider who fails to report as required by law may be charged with a criminal offense and/or held liable for damages resulting from a car accident caused by her or his patient.

The PennDot Medical Advisory Board maintains a list of the types of medical conditions that could impair a person's ability to drive, the diagnosis of which triggers the mandatory reporting requirement. Depending on the nature of the medical condition and the extent to which it impairs one's ability to drive, PennDOT may add restrictions to or revoke a person's driving privileges. Some of the reportable medical conditions are listed below.

  • Vision worse than 20/70 (after correction)
  • Seizure disorders
  • Unstable diabetes
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Use of a drug known to impair skill or function
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Dementia
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Excessive aggressiveness presenting a clear and present danger

Because older drivers are more likely to have medical conditions that impair their driving such as arthritis, cognitive problems, slowed reflexes, multiple or strong medications and impaired vision, the medical reporting law accomplishes the goal of targeting older drivers whose driving poses a risk to the health and safety of other drivers.

Driver's license restrictions in Pennsylvania

When issuing drivers' licenses, PennDOT may add restrictions to a person's driving privileges it deems appropriate to a driver's ability. These restrictions may include the installation of a mechanical control device and/or other restrictions/requirements necessary to assure safe operation of a vehicle by the licensee. Some examples of driving restrictions/requirements are listed below.

  • Driver must wear glasses or contacts required while driving
  • Vehicle must have dual mirrors
  • Vehicle must have an automatic transmission
  • Vehicle must have special equipment installed (spinner knob, left foot gas pedal, etc.)
  • Driver is not permitted to drive at night
  • Driving restricted within a certain radius of the driver's residence, to roads other than freeways, to vehicle weighing no more than 10,000 pounds

If you have been injured in a car accident involving an older driver, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your rights and recover the compensation to which you are entitled.