When a person has a medical condition such as diabetes, it can complicate his ability to get a regular driver’s license or commercial driver’s license (CDL).
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has guidelines in place for anyone in the United States, including Arkansas, to apply for a medical exemption to these restrictions.[/box]
History of Driving and Diabetes
For years, federal rules have dictated whether diabetics could obtain a driver’s license. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) website, a person with non-insulin-dependent diabetes could get a regular driver’s license. An insulin-dependent person could have a regular driver’s license but not a CDL. The ADA has worked hard to change the law from a blanket ban to an individual assessment for a CDL. In 2003, the Diabetes Exemption Program was established to allow drivers individual assessments.
Diabetes Exemption Program
The Diabetes Exemption Program seemed like a good idea, but it had a major problem. In order to be considered for an exemption, a driver had to have three years of commercial driving experience. Beginning drivers who were insulin-dependent had no way to legally gain the required experience. The ADA continued its quest to change those restrictive laws.
In 2005, Congress passed a law that eliminated the three-year rule from the exemption program. The rule was replaced by another requirement. Only drivers with an A1C range between seven and 10 could obtain a CDL. The A1C is a blood test that measures a person’s average blood glucose level over the previous two to three months. This requirement is not strictly enforced in any state, including Arkansas.
Driving with Diabetes
In Arkansas, when a person takes her written driver’s test for a regular license, no questions are asked about any medical conditions the driver may have. But if a driver is testing for a CDL in Arkansas, she is required to have a medical exam every two years to show she has good eyesight, good hearing and a 70-degree field of vision in each eye. If the medical exam reveals diabetes, she has to apply for an exemption to receive the CDL.
Additionally, if her glucose level drops while driving, and she blacks out or has another episode that affects her driving, she may have her license taken away. According to the ADA website, if it is a regular license, her driving privilege will be restored if she provides a doctor’s statement saying she has had no other blackouts in one year. If it is a CDL and she is insulin-dependent, keeping her CDL is much more difficult.
CDL Medical Exemptions
If a driver has insulin-dependent diabetes and wants to obtain or keep his CDL, he can apply for an exemption. The Federal Diabetes Exemption Program has the same protocol for every state in the country, including Arkansas. To apply for this exemption, the driver must be examined by a physician, an endocrinologist and an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Each physician must complete a written checklist and give a written evaluation on official letterhead. The driver must then submit original copies of the checklists, the letterhead evaluations, a photocopy of both side of his driver’s license and a current motor vehicle record to the Federal Diabetes Exemption Program, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Room W64-224, Washington, DC 20590.[/box]