National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C.-- The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a public
hearing on medical oversight of non-commercial drivers on March 18th and 19th.
The hearing, which will start at 8:00 a.m., will be held in the NTSB Board Room
and Conference Center, 429 Lenfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, DC The impetus
for this hearing is a series of fatal accidents that involved drivers with potentially
impairing or debilitating medical conditions.
The two-day hearing will explore the following issues:
*Background and research into potentially impairing or debilitating medical conditions that might affect an individuals ability to drive.
*Current procedures for collecting and routing information on medically high-risk drivers to licensing authorities and medical review boards.
*The effectiveness of State oversight of licensed drivers who suffer from potentially impairing or debilitating medical conditions.
*Programs that aid doctors, law enforcement, licensing authorities, and others in reporting, managing, or counseling medically high-risk drivers.
*Programs that attempt to reduce incidences of medically related accidents through education and other proactive measures.
*Public policy considerations in the design and implementation of driver medical oversight programs.
The hearing, chaired by Member John Goglia, is in support of several ongoing NTSB investigations, including a fatal multiple vehicle accident that occurred last year in Hagerstown, Maryland, involving a driver with an incapacitating medical condition. Additionally, the Safety Board will look at several other accidents in which the drivers involved were taking medications. The following accidents will be discussed as part of the hearing:
On June 7, 2001, in Washington County, Maryland, a Windstar van traveling westbound on Interstate 70, failed to negotiate a right-hand curve, ran off the roadway, continued through the median, and encroached into the eastbound lane, killing the driver. After the crash, the investigating state trooper interviewed the vans passenger, who stated the van's driver had suffered a brain injury several years ago, had experienced "black-outs" in the past, and had a history of seizures. The passenger also told the trooper that the driver was taking medication to treat the seizures. A check of the drivers Virginia operator license did not indicate any previous history of accidents, suspensions, or medical restrictions.
On October 26, 2002, a 19-year old driver stopped at a grade crossing in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. The railroad gates were down and warning lights were flashing. As the train passed through the crossing, the vehicle driver suffered a seizure, accelerated the vehicle, and crashed into side of the passing train. After the accident, the investigating police officers found seizure medication in the vehicle. The driver received minor injuries, but was hospitalized because of seizure-related complications.
On December 11, 2002, a 54-year-old male operating a 2000 Jeep Cherokee in Lady Lake, Florida, suffered a seizure as he crossed an intersection and lost control of his vehicle, striking 74-year-old male who was helping direct traffic as part of an outdoor festival. After striking the pedestrian, the Jeep left the roadway and struck several other pedestrians. Two more pedestrians were killed, and 13 others sustained injuries; the Jeep driver was not injured.
On January 31, 2003, a 61-year-old driver in Deerfield Beach, Florida, lost control of her vehicle, traveled approximately 25 feet from the intersection and crashed into a food store. Two occupants of the store were injured and transported to a local hospital. According to police, after the accident, the driver stated that she had been diagnosed with diabetes and may have blacked out before the accident.
Last year, in Frederick, Maryland, a driver with a history of epilepsy
failed to stop at a traffic light, struck another car causing a series of
rear-end collisions involving six vehicles. As a result, a 39-year-old male
driver and 3 children between the ages of 8 and 10 were killed. Investigators
also learned that the driver had received a vagal nerve implant, was taking
prescription medication to control seizures, and reportedly was involved
in a seizure-related accident in November 2000, and an unspecified type
of accident in August 2001. The driver had voluntarily surrendered his operators
license to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration in October 2001, but
was reissued another license in 2002.
Parties to the hearing are: the Association for the Advancement of Automotive
Medicine, the American Medical Association, the American College of Emergency
Physicians, the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, AARP, the
Epilepsy Foundation of America, the American Sleep Apnea Association, the Alzheimer's
Association, the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Mothers Against
Drunk Drivers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the American Insurance
Association, the Governors Highway Safety Association, the American Association
of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the National Conference of Uniform Traffic
Laws and Ordinances, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the
National Sheriffs' Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures,
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, and the Federal Transit Administration.
Details of the hearing can be found on the Safety Boards web page at www.ntsb.gov http://www.ntsb.gov/.
NTSB Media Contact:
Terry N. Williams
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.