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Many Utahns lie about medical conditions that should keep them from driving

First Published      Last Updated Jun 14 2017 07:51 am


Road safety » Family, friends and police turn in dozens of people who lie about their health to be allowed to drive.

Many drivers suffering ailments from severe epilepsy to senility, diabetes and heart disease should not be on the road under state rules. But they stay behind the wheel because of a problem state officials say they do not know how to solve: lying.

Utah depends on people to self-report such problems, but many lie to keep driving without restrictions, Clark Caras, director of the Utah Driver License Division, told legislators Tuesday.

However, his division does identify 15 to 20 people a month who fibbed, or whose driving is more dangerous than even they realize, because of confidential reports filed by the police or concerned family, friends or an occasional doctor.




Caras talked about the problem amid questioning by the Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee as it discussed whether to formalize rules on how and when to restrict driving because of physical or mental problems.

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, said she has heard many people through the years encourage one another not to report, as required, problems such as depression or multiple sclerosis because it would then require annual reports from their doctor, and perhaps driving skills tests.

"We encourage people [for] public safety to be honest," Caras said. "We try to be reasonable in how we follow up," and serious conditions — such as those with a high possibility of causing blackouts — require more frequent follow-up than others.

MykeAnne Hurst, deputy director of the license division, said, for example, that in the past the agency had required anyone reporting depression to file a report from a doctor at least annually to continue driving.

She said the state later realized that was unneeded and burdensome for a large group of people. It changed rules so that the division now tracks only serious depression. "If someone takes basic anxiety medication or Prozac," she said, "it's not a requirement that you fill out a form every year."

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, asked if the state has any estimates of how many people are lying to remain on the road. Caras said it does not, and does not know how to develop one — nor really how to stop the lying.

But Hurst said the 15 to 20 reports on undisclosed ailments the license division receives each month are confidential to protect informants, including family members, but they must be signed and notarized so as to prevent harassment through false accusations.

Are doctors required to report patients with conditions that would make it unsafe for them to drive? asked Stephenson.

Caras said technically they are, but rarely comply. Physicians say, according to Caras, "I need honesty from my patients so I can treat them. If I am seen as the adversary… they are not going to be honest with me."

The division also identifies people every year with obvious problems noticed as they apply for licenses, he said, and employees can question them or refer them for more thorough testing or interviews. But employees have to see such impairment themselves to act — and that does not happen with the people who apply to renew licenses online or by mail.

Drivers who lie about medical conditions could be criminally charged for filling out a false form, Caras said, but that rarely happens. They also may lose licenses immediately if lying comes to light.

A more serious threat to violators, he said, is in potential civil lawsuits over any damage or injuries in a car accident. "If it comes out that someone lied about a condition, the attorney for the other side would be all over that."

Lawmakers are reviewing whether to make formal state rules from what are now 78 pages of mere guidelines about how and when a variety of ailments should trigger driving restrictions.

Caras warned that such a change could lead to slowing down any needed revisions to those guidelines.

For example, a medical advisory board is in the process of reducing the frequency of doctor's reports required for diabetics who do not use insulin. If that was a rule, rather than a guideline, such a change would take months, he said.

The current 78 pages of guidelines are online at the Driver License Division website.

Among conditions required to be reported to the state by drivers are diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary conditions, neurological conditions, seizures and epilepsy, learning and memory disorders, psychiatric and emotional conditions, alcohol and drug use, visual disorders, alertness and sleep disorder, musculoskeletal abnormalities, and hearing and balance disorders.

 

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