I was asked by a client about a letter he got in the mail from Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor vehicles.  DMV is the official agency in charge of driver’s licenses and driving tests. He was in a minor car accident nearly a year ago.  No one was injured, and the other driver caused the accident.   The letter politely says he “needs to take the test(s) at the driver’s license office listed below…”  If he flunks,  his license will have to be given up.  If he refuses to get tested he loses his license. Can this really be the law?

I looked into this situation to see if I could be of any help.  My client is an older gentleman and is very concerned about the loss of his driver’s license.  He needs it to maintain his independence.  Here is what I found in the Florida statues:

  • If DMV has “good cause” to believe a licensed driver is incompetent to drive it may on at least 5 day’s notice require any driver to submit to an examination.  “Good cause” includes a bad driving record or a report under FS 322.126
  • Under  FS 322.126 anyone “having knowledge of any licensed driver’s mental or physical disability to drive can report such knowledge” to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles;
  • The reports are confidential, and are not subject to Florida’s Public records laws, so they cannot be obtained.  This makes the names of those reporting and the contents immune from a subpoena.
  • Any doctor,  law enforcement agent, or other person who turns in a person suspected of being unable to safely drive a car is immune from a lawsuit.

Interestingly, according to DMV’s published statistics more than 10% of all driver’s in Florida are over the age of 70.  Most accidents are caused by teenagers, however, and they represent only 5% of the driving population.

I suppose this law is necessary to encourage people, especially family members and treating physicians, to turn in drivers who they suspect are driving hazards either to themselves or to others.  In a perfect world there would be no accidents, and incompetent drivers would voluntarily surrender their licenses.  But we don’t live in that world, so laws like this are unfortunately needed.  I am not aware of any abuse of reports, and hope they are few and far between.

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