Massachusetts law requires that all individuals who believe they have a medical condition that could impair their driving ability to report their condition to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). Once the RMV assesses a self-report, it will instruct the driver to either:
- Schedule a driving test to determine whether any adaptive driving equipment or license restrictions are necessary; or,
- Voluntarily surrender his or her driver’s license until the medical condition improves.
If you fail to self-report a medical condition to the RMV and voluntarily surrender your license (for example, if a police officer reports your condition after a traffic stop), the RMV may suspend your license indefinitely. Worse, your condition may cause an accident resulting in serious injuries to you and others.
So, what types of medical conditions can impair your ability to drive?
Types of Medical Conditions that Commonly Lead to Auto Accidents
The RMV has identified the following (among others) as medical conditions that may require voluntary surrender of your driver’s license:
Vision and Hearing Problems
If your vision or hearing has deteriorated since you received your driver’s license, you should speak with your doctor. Vision loss obviously has significant ramifications that affect your ability to drive, and you may be able to obtain a restricted license that allows you to drive during the day or with corrective lenses.
The RMV notes that, “[h]earing loss, by itself, does not impair a person’s ability to drive.” However, being unable to hear the traffic around you can still be dangerous, and hearing loss may also be a sign of another condition that could negatively impact your safety on the road.
Diabetes, Arthritis, Sleep Disorders, and other Medical Conditions
Epileptic seizures, serious heart and respiratory conditions, and sleep disorders such as narcolepsy can all lead to sudden incapacity, which in turn can become extremely dangerous on the public roadways. Arthritis, sleep deprivation, and other ailments that reduce your physical response time can be equally dangerous.
Prescription Drugs and Addictions
Certain prescription drugs have side effects that make driving unsafe. You should always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before driving under the influence of any prescription medications. This can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
If you suffer from alcoholism or an addiction to prescription or illegal drugs, you may be more prone to driving under the influence. Your doctor or therapist can advise you on the risks of your condition.
When a Medical Condition Causes a Collision
If you cause an accident while driving with an impairing medical condition, you may be found liable for the damages and injuries sustained. As noted above, you may also lose your license indefinitely. Conversely, if someone injures you while driving in an impaired state, you may be entitled to compensation.