Does North Carolina Need Tougher Screening For Driving Impairments?

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Does North Carolina Need Tougher Screening For Driving Impairments?

By Brown Moore

January 14, 2018

Home News & Resources Does North Carolina Need Tougher Screening For Driving Impairments?

Car wrecks and collisions in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are, sadly, common. In early March 2018, a man was killed in an automobile wreck in east Charlotte at Matheson Avenue and Clemson Avenue near NoDa. According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, the driver who was killed was speeding and failed to stop at a stop sign. According to the report, the deceased driver was not wearing his seat belt, and alcohol might have been a causal factor. There are millions of car wrecks every year. In 2014, NHTSA statistics tabulated over six million accidents, wrecks, and collisions. More than 1.6 million of those accidents involved death and/or injury.  Recently, one of the questions that  being raised more and more is whether tougher screening is needed for driving impairments such as vision loss. Obviously, having a clear and accurate vision is necessary for good and careful driving. But are the tests done by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles adequate? Visual acuity is not the only concern. Last summer, a Minnesota man with a history of epileptic seizures killed three people in a car wreck. He concealed his medical condition from state authorities and kept driving despite the risk.  If you are injured in a car accident by a reckless or careless driver or one with a dangerous medical condition, contact the proven and experienced Charlotte, NC auto accident attorneys here at Brown Moore & Associates.

Charlotte Auto Accident Attorneys: Debilitating Medical Conditions

Aside from the loss of vision due to aging or head trauma or other cause, there are many other debilitating medical conditions that can lead to car collisions.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries can severely impact short-term cognitive and physical functioning. Careful and safe driving involves a combination of proper sensory, perceptual, cognitive, psychomotor, and physical functioning. Any injury or medical condition that diminished one or more of these essential functions increases the risk of collisions and wrecks. Those with brain injuries suffer the after-effects for months and sometimes years. Brain injuries — like a concussion — generally occur when the brain itself is thrust up against the hard bone of the cranium as a result of a sudden change in momentum or physical impact. There is almost always an immediate loss of cognitive functioning — dizziness — and a loss of physical functioning — loss of balance, for example. When these symptoms persist, driving is risky for a person with brain trauma.

Cardiovascular Diseases

People with cardiovascular diseases are also at a higher risk on the road. Sudden pain in the chest, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, and other symptoms can cause sudden loss of consciousness and loss of sensory-motor function. Under some circumstances, sudden incapacitation caused by the cardiovascular disease can make the driver liable for injury or death that results from a collision. See Word v. Jones ex rel. Moore, 516 SE 2d 144 (N.C. Supreme Court 1999)

 Neurological Disorders

There are many neurological disorders that make driving extremely risky for some drivers and dangerous for others on the road. These include:

  • Parkinson’s
  • Dementia
  • Alcoholic dementia
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Neurodegenerative diseases

These neurological disorders are often associated with older drivers. All of these affect cognitive functioning and decision-making. As the various diseases and conditions worsen, individuals suffering from the conditions will ultimately be unable to drive safely. More problematic is that, since these conditions affect cognitive functioning, these people are unable to make proper choices about when to stop driving.

Other Conditions

Other dangerous medical conditions include:

  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Cerebral palsy, strokes, and other disorders that impair motor functions
  • Attention deficit disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Psychiatric disorders and other forms of mental illness.

Charlotte Auto Accident Attorneys: What is Being Done?

The North Carolina Department of Division of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) administers a medical review program that is intended to identify dangerous drivers. According to the DMV, the mission of the medical evaluation program is:

“… to provide scientific and medical services to evaluate drivers who may suffer from conditions that may adversely affect their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The Program’s medical staff reviews medical records and statements from attending physicians in conjunction with driving records. Using their knowledge and experience in medicine and public health, they analyze this information and provide a recommendation as to what, if any restrictions should be placed on a driver’s license. Their goal is to protect highway safety without causing unnecessary hardship to the driver.”

Note that driving restrictions are often the solution to drivers with dangerous medical conditions. Among the more common restrictions:

  • Required use of medications and/or devices (such as prescription eyeglasses)
  • Daylight only driving restrictions
  • City streets/no highway driving
  • Radius from home restrictions
  • Only with another licensed driver
  • And more

Not everyone is  satisfied with the medical evaluation program. Critics point out that the DMV is passive in the receipt of information. Indeed, the DMV summary and question sheet state that “[d]rivers thought to be medically impaired are brought to the attention of the DMV’s Medical Evaluation Program.” The DMV relies on law enforcement, medical professionals, and family members to “report” on individuals who might be a danger to themselves and others when driving. Arguably, that is not sufficient; arguably, the DMV needs to be more proactive to screen dangerous drivers. There have been recent efforts by North Carolina lawmakers to require law enforcement to list on police/accident reports if the accident was caused by a seizure or other predictable medical emergency.

Your Charlotte Auto Accident Attorneys —  Brown Moore & Associates

If you have been injured in a car collision with a dangerous driver, call the auto accident and personal injury attorneys at Brown Moore & Associates, We are fully aware of the many medical conditions that can cause a driver to be dangerous to himself or herself and to others on the road. We will gather the evidence necessary to prove your case. We are proven auto accident attorneys, and we are here to help. Contact our office today. We serve North Carolina residents in Asheville, Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia, Huntersville, Kannapolis, Monroe, Mooresville, Shelby, and surrounding areas.