Disabled drivers in N.C. say their licenses are being threatened

A North Carolina group of people with physical disabilities has filed a federal lawsuit against a state program that requires them to prove every year that they can still drive.

According to the The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) the state Division of Motor Vehicles sends out a letter to certain licensed drivers annually, giving them 30 days to take driving and medical tests to show they remain safe behind the wheel.

Some drivers who fall into the medical program are elderly people in declining health … And there are younger drivers ... who pass DMV’s written tests, vision tests and road tests – but are forced to keep proving themselves because they have physical disabilities.

Even after they pass extra DMV tests, and after their doctors confirm their fitness to drive ... these drivers sometimes find it impossible to overcome DMV’s nagging suspicions.

“I don’t want to have to face, every year, the threat of losing my license and my independence for no reason,” said Pam Dickens, 53.

Six people, including Dickens, are accusing the DMV of violating the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The plaintiffs have each dealt with having to prove over and over again that they can drive. They have repeatedly taken medical exams to submit to the DMV, and they have even paid for occupational therapists to test them while driving, according to the report.

The DMV has denied that the program is discriminatory, and its officials have said state law gives them the authority to question whether people are fit to drive.

DMV said it hopes to resolve the lawsuit quickly.

“[The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles] remains committed to providing the highest level of road safety, for the individual and motoring public,” spokesman Brian Smith said late Monday by email.

Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or hstockton@publicsource.org.