Raleigh, NC: Today, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle approved a Consent Judgment resolving Disability Rights NC’s 2014 lawsuit over discrimination in the North Carolina driver licensing program. The lawsuit alleged that drivers with disabilities were subject to unnecessary and repeated road tests and medical examinations, and had restrictions on their driver licenses that were based on inaccurate assumptions about their driving ability. The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles has agreed to reform its driver licensing system to ensure that drivers with disabilities are not discriminated against based on disability. These changes will benefit thousands of drivers who are subject to the DMV’s Medical Review Program in addition to the individuals named in the complaint.
The Consent Judgment resolves the complaints of seven individuals with disabilities and Disability Rights NC. It is enforceable by the Court and requires that the DMV:
- End repeated medical reviews of individuals with a non-degenerative condition, such as cerebral palsy, a spinal cord injury, or a missing limb.
- End the use of assistive technology, such as hand controls or a walker, as an automatic basis for being road tested or undergoing a medical review.
- Provide avenues to appeal and challenge requests for medical review and driving restrictions.
- Improve access to information about the basis for the DMV’s actions and give drivers access to copies of their Medical Review Program records.
- Remove drivers who have a non-degenerative condition and request removal from the Medical Review Program. The DMV has committed to remove drivers proactively in some cases.
- Provide information about how to appeal and challenge requests for medical review and driving restrictions, and request removal from the program.
To implement the changes that require legislative or rule changes, the DMV and Disability Rights NC are jointly pursuing changes to the N.C. General Statutes and Administrative Code.
The Medical Review Program was created as a mechanism for the DMV to identify unsafe drivers. Doctors, family members, and others may suggest that a driver is no longer capable of safely driving, and the DMV may require that individual to undergo medical screening. The Plaintiffs in this case are capable, safe drivers with a physical disability who were nonetheless referred to the Medical Review Program. “The DMV has recognized it was time to close the book on the way things have been done. Going forward, North Carolina drivers with disabilities can expect to be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other drivers. Most importantly, they will have legal recourse if their rights are being violated,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC.