Numerous factors can affect our driving skills as we age. Elderly drivers, for example, may experience declines in hearing, vision, memory, and reaction time, thereby hindering their ability to safely operator a vehicle. In order to evaluate drivers who might be unsafe, the New Jersey MVC has a Medical Fitness Review Unit. The Medical Fitness Review Unit is in charge of performing medical evaluations in order to determine if a driver is safe to operate a motor vehicle.
The medical fitness review process can be complex. Although this process is conducted on a case-by-case basis, the following information provide a general overview of the process.
Often times, the Medical Fitness Review Unit will initiate the medical review process after receiving a report about a possibly unsafe motorist. These reports usually come from doctors, police officers, social workers, courts, or other concerned citizens. Doctors, in fact, are required by law to notify the New Jersey MVC if a patient they are treating suffers from recurrent seizure or recurrent periods of unconsciousness or for impairment due to conditions such as epilepsy.
After a report is made, the Medical Fitness Review Unit sends a notice to the motorist explaining that a medical review is required. Included with that notice are forms that must be filled out by the motorist’s physician and returned to the MVC within 45 days. If the motorist fails to return the forms on time, the MVC will suspend the motorist’s license.
Based on the results of the forms as filled out by the physician, the Medical Fitness Review Unit may issue an indefinite license suspension, a restricted license, or a “no action required” finding. Sometimes, however, the Medical Fitness Review Unit will require additional information or testing, such as a driver reexamination, before making a decision. The Medical Fitness Review Unit can also require that the motorist and his or her physician provide regular monitoring and reporting of the motorist’s medical condition.
1. Driver Reexamination
Driver reexamination may be required of motorists who have physical or mental disorders that may affect their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. During a reexamination, a hearing officer will evaluate the motorist by conducting an interview. The reexamination may also involve a written test, a vision test, or a driving test.
To prepare drivers for the reexamination, the New Jersey MVC offers a Mature Driver Improvement Courses. After the reexamination, the hearing officer will determine whether any actions should be taken against the motorist’s driving privileges, such as suspending or revoking driving privileges, or placing a restriction on the motorist’s driving privileges.
2. Restrictions on Licenses
Not all medical conditions will or should keep a elderly motorist from driving. The issuance of a restricted license, as opposed to an indefinite suspension, will allow senior motorists to continue to drive in certain situations. In many cases, in fact, the concerns of the Medical Fitness Review Unit will be met by placing a license restriction on the driver’s license of an elderly driver. These restrictions can vary and will depend on the results of the vision test and driver reexamination test. Some of the more common restrictions for senior drivers include any of the following:
• Requiring the motorist to use eyeglasses or contact lenses while driving;
• Prohibiting the motorist from driving during certain times, such as at nighttime or during rush hour;
• Restricting the geographical area in which the motorist is allowed to drive;
• Prohibiting the motorist from driving on the freeway or on roads with speed limits of 50 mph or over; or
• Requiring an additional side mirror on the car.
A motorist who disagrees or is not satisfied with the decision made by the Medical Fitness Review Unit may appeal that decision pursuant to N.J.S.A. 13:19-1.1. If the MVC issued an order of suspension in accordance with the decision of the Medical Review Unit, a request for a hearing will not stay (or stop) the impending suspension.
If you have received notice from the New Jersey MVC requiring that you undergo a medical review or a driver reexamination, or if you wish to request a hearing to contest the decision made by the Medical Fitness Review Unit or by a hearing officer, contact theWolf Law today. We have been representing senior motorists in New Jersey before the Medical Fitness Review Unit for over 30 years. Call us today for a free consultation at (732) 741-4448.