Loss of Consciousness Affecting Your Driver’s License or Professional EMS License

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has implemented rules and restrictions limiting the ability of an individual to drive if he or she suffers from a “lapse of consciousness” disorder.  Since many firefighter’s jobs, including those of paramedics and EMTs, have a driving requirement as part of their work duties, it is important to know what qualifies as a lapse of consciousness disorder and what are the restrictions to a person who has such a disorder.   

 

The common lapses of consciousness disorder include epilepsy which is characterized by the occurrence of two or more seizures, as well as some sleep disorders. [1]  Seizures can be caused by a variety of things including trauma, infection, genetics, injury, metabolic imbalances, high fever, or an overdose of toxins from alcohol or drugs.[2]  Depending on the condition of the driver, the DMV has created guidelines to determine in what situations actions are appropriate.  The DMV has the option of taking no action, placing the driver on medical probation type II or III, suspending the driver’s license or revoking the license.

 

If a driver is placed on medical probation, the driver is permitted to drive if he or she has demonstrated that the disorder is under control by way of a physician completing the Driver Medical Evaluation and submitting it to the department.  Probation Type II is available for drivers that have experienced three to five months of control, while a Type III probation is available for drivers that have achieved six or more months of control but there is a slight possibility that the driver could experience another seizure.  If you suffer from a lapse of consciousness disorder and driving is a part of your job requirement, contact an employment attorney to see what options are available to you.

 

The big question is whether a person who has fainted once or twice is considered to have a lapse of consciousness disorder, and how will such a condition impact his or her ability to drive.  For example, a Syncope seizure is a “fainting or loss of consciousness due to loss of cardiac output”; the examples of such a seizure can be caused by circumstance such as a cough, emotions, or during urination, or can be precipitated by fright or pain.[3]  With syncope seizures that are situational, such as when a person faints at the sight of blood, the DMV can choose to not take action to restrict the individual’s ability to drive, when the DMV believes that the seizure was a “single episode symptomatic to another situation which is unlikely to recur while driving.”[4]

 

Fainting does not automatically place a person into the category of having a lapse of consciousness disorder.  However, physicians are required to report patients over the age of 14 that are diagnosed as having lapses of consciousness, Alzheimer’s disease, or related disorders under California Health and Safety Code section 103900.  A physician has the discretion to report to the DMV any medical condition that he or she believes may affect a person’s ability to drive safely.

 

Once a “lapse of consciousness disorder” is reported, the DMV considers several factors in determining to suspend or revoke a person’s driving privilege, including: (1) the effect of the disorder on the physical and mental abilities necessary to drive safety and to exercise reasonable control of a motor vehicle, (2) the individual’s testimony regarding the disorder and his or her ability to drive safely, (3) whether the disorder is under control with or without medication, (4) the individual’s reliability regarding compliance with any prescribed medical regimen, (5) other medical conditions which may affect the lapse of consciousness disorder, (6) the individual’s driving record, (7) any other relevant evidence or factors which might affect the individual’s ability to drive safely, and (8) a current medical evaluation of the individual provided by the individual’s physician, as authorized by the individual.[5]

After a determination that an individual suffers from a lapse of consciousness disorder, the DMV has discretion in deciding to take action against the individual’s driving privilege.  This means that if the evidence suggests that the driver can safely maintain control over their vehicle, then the department can choose to not take action restricting the individual’s driving privilege.[6]

For EMTs, paramedics or other EMS personnel who drive commercial motor vehicles including ambulances or fire trucks, the Department of Transportation has stated that a driver may be considered physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if that person “has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of epilepsy or any other condition which is likely to cause loss of consciousness or any loss of ability to control a commercial motor vehicle.”[7]  If a driver can demonstrate that he or she does not suffer from epilepsy (fewer than two seizures) and does not have a condition that makes it likely that they will suffer from loss of consciousness or loss of ability to control a commercial vehicle, that individual should argue that they are qualified to drive a commercial vehicle.

If you find yourself in a situation where you driving privileges are being restricted or threatened, contact an experienced EMT or Paramedic License Defense attorney to see what your rights are and how to proceed in keeping your driving privileges.



[1] Driver Safety Information Lapses of Consciousness Disorders: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/driversafety/lapes.htm

[2] Driver Safety Information Lapses of Consciousness Disorders: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/driversafety/lapes.htm

[3] Lapse of Consciousness Consolidation Table: http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/dl/driversafety/laps_table.pdf

[4] Lapse of Consciousness Consolidation Table: http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/dl/driversafety/laps_table.pdf

[5] Cal. Code Regs. tit. 13, section 110.01.  The medical evaluation shall provide information regarding (1) the diagnosis of the disorder, (2) the date of onset of the disorder, (3) the date of the last episode and the frequency of episodes, (4) the stability of the condition, (5) any manifestations or impairments associated with the condition, (6) the medical regimen prescribed and patient compliance with the prescribed regiment, and (7) the physicians prognosis.

[6] Cal. Code Regs. tit. 13, section 110.02

[7] 49 C.F.R. section 391.41

 

If you are a California EMT, Paramedic or professionally license firefighter and your professional license is under investigation, you’ve been notified that there is a complaint against your EMS license, or the EMS Authority has filed an accusation against your EMT or Paramedic license, contact  the license defense attorneys of EMS Guardian right away. We can help defend your license and save your EMS career. 

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