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Legislation Addresses Drivers’ Health Issues [AUDIO]

A proposed legislation would require health care providers to report information to the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission about individuals whose health problems may impair their ability to safely operate a vehicle.

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In New Jersey, doctors are required to report epilepsy and related conditions that may impact a person’s ability to drive to the MVC. The new measure would expand the law to include physicians, psychologists, advance practice nurses, dentists and others who would be in a position to understand if a patient 16-years-old or older has any physical condition that could significantly affect their ability to drive.

“The bill allows doctors to make a decision about whether this person will be adversely affected and it eliminates what can often be a frustrating situation for medical professionals who recognize that this person should not be driving,” said bill sponsor, Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge). “I think that one of the other side benefits is that it can be very, very useful to families who have a loved one who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.”

Under the bill, all health care providers would be required to report to the MVC the name, age, address and description of the alleged impairment of any person diagnosed with a health problem which, in the provider’s judgment, significantly affects the person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

“One of the hardest things you ever have to do is to take away somebody’s ability to drive,” Coughlin said. “This would allow the family member to talk to the doctor and say, ‘Could you be the bad guy? Could you do this so I don’t have to tell mom or dad that they can’t drive anymore?’”

The bill also requires the MVC, in consultation with the Department of Health, to establish a procedure for the evaluation and screening of reports so that “no person is unwarrantedly denied the privilege of operating a motor vehicle.” The reports would remain confidential except for the purpose of determining the eligibility of a person to operate a motor vehicle.

The legislation was discussed in an Assembly committee Thursday, but there was no vote. The future of the measure is to be determined.

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