By Charles E. Beggs
SALEM The Oregon DMV says a new impaired-driver-reporting
system is working without hitches in 13 counties and is on
track to be extended statewide by summer.
The program is an expanded effort to get people off the roads
who arent fit to drive because of physical or mental
impairments due to aging or other causes.
For years, doctors have been required to report to Driver
and Motor Vehicle Services when patients have afflictions
that could make them unsafe drivers. The agency can suspend
drivers licenses in such cases.
But some officials and physicians considered the old reporting
law outdated and too narrow because it required reports only
when a patient had suffered lapses of consciousness or control,
DMV spokesman David House said.
House said the old rule sometimes caused doctors to make
reports based on temporary, passing conditions, while the
law ignored other problems that could make drivers unsafe.
Reporting criteria changed June 1, based on a law passed
in 2001 and on recommendations from a panel of experts.
Physicians and some other health-care providers now will
be required to report to the DMV any severe and uncontrollable
physical or mental impairments that make drivers unsafe.
The changes take medical advances into account by allowing
a driver to avoid a license suspension if there is a way to
correct or control an impairment.
A phase-in of the new system put 13 counties, mostly in Southern
and Central Oregon, under the revised reporting requirements
by Dec. 31.
The change took effect Monday in six Willamette Valley and
coastal counties and will apply statewide June 1.
House said 435 medical reports had been received under the
new standards as of Monday, which he said wasnt an unexpectedly
The most common impairments cited are for judgment, reaction
time, memory and vision problems.
The DMV mails license suspension notices to drivers, who
can ask for testing at a DMV office and regain their licenses
if they pass.
Of the reports, House said, 57 percent involve drivers older
A study released last month by the national AAA Foundation
for Traffic Safety said drivers older than 65 are more likely
to get into crashes because of declining perception and motor
But the Oregon study committee took pains to avoid designating
age alone as a criteria for re-evaluating drivers.
The study was created by lawmakers in 1999 from a bill that
would have required drivers older than 80 to renew licenses
every two years instead of four and take driving
and vision tests and receive medical approval to drive.
Lawmakers scrapped that idea after loud protests from lobbying
groups for seniors.
The new system takes into account that people age differently,
He said drivers as young as 19 have had their licenses suspended