So what should you do if you encounter a patient that really shouldn’t be driving? First, encourage them and/or their family to self-report. If that fails, familiarize yourself with the laws of your state (or province).
In the US, 11 states have mandatory reporting laws for certain conditions that would impair driving. Forty have some type of reporting system for phsyicians and other health professionals. Many allow anyone to report. However, a few stipulate that they may release your name to the driver or that you must have their permission to report. This is essentially the same as not allowing you to report.
Unfortunately, only 29 states hold you harmless from civil or criminal suit if you choose to report. I suspect it would be a tough sell convincing a jury that a patient’s inconvenience is more important than protecting them from an unsafe driver, though. I doubt such a suit would go anywhere.
So brush up on the laws and procedures in your state and decide what is in your patient’s (and the public’s) best interest. Then do the right thing.
A sample of my compiled report of US state reporting laws is shown below. Click it or this link to download it.
- Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers 2e. NHTSA / AMA, 2010.