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Day at the DMV

By: Diana Sullivan, Disability Rights Specialist, IndependenceFirst

Jackie went to the DMV (Dept. of Motor Vehicles) to renew her disabled parking permit. A staff member noticed that Jackie came into the building using a scooter. He checked her driver's license to see if there were any restrictions listed on her license and found none. Jackie was told by the DMV staff that she would be required to re-take the written and road test in order to prove her competency to drive; and to determine if there would be restrictions placed on her license. He gave her a Medical Examination Report form and asked her to have her physician fill it out and return it to the WisDot (Wisconsin Department of Transportation).

This came as a surprise to Jackie as she has a spotless driving record and her disability did not affect her driving. This "surprise" requirement to re-take driving tests affects many people today. Sometimes people feel singled out. They think they are being forced to be re-tested just because they have a disability. Some have called me and asked if it's legal for the State to make them be "re-tested" again. "Is this some sort of discrimination"? I wondered myself and decided to call the Department of Transportation (WisDOT), which is our governing leg of the DMV here. This is what I learned. The State of Wisconsin Statutes have provisions that state, "The secretary may require any applicant for a license or any licensed operator (someone already carrying a license) to submit to a special examination by such persons or agencies as the secretary may direct to determine incompetency, physical or mental disability, disease or any other condition which might prevent such applicant or licensed person from exercising reasonable and ordinary control over a motor vehicle." - (Trans 112, Chapter 343.16(5) Medical or other special examinations)

Jackie was observed using her scooter inside the DMV building. There may be other circumstances where someone's ability to drive could "appear" to be impaired and they may be required to be re-tested. This could happen while driving. In Wisconsin, our driver's licenses are typically renewed every 8 years. Drivers' abilities can change during this period of time. Oftentimes people don't notify the DMV if they have a change in their mental or physical condition.

Our state, unlike others, does not have a requirement for reporting change. In Illinois, drivers are required to file a Medical Report Form within 10 days of becoming aware of any medical or mental condition which could result in a loss of consciousness or any loss of ability to safely drive a vehicle; or if they take any medication that may impair their ability to drive.

In Wisconsin, we answer this information at the time of license renewal. Everyone is given a vision test or submits a report from their own vision specialist. If someone requires corrective lenses, that is listed on the driver's license as a restriction. There are numerous conditions that the WisDOT identifies as qualifying as a restriction, and these too, would be listed on the driver's license. (see Medical Examination Report, MV3644 Ch. 343 Wis. Stats. & Trans.112 Admin. Code)

In order to meet the safety standards for driving in our state, knowledge of skills demonstrated by a written test (reasonable accommodations are made for people with reading disabilities), and physical road test are requirements. Our regs state, "Your diagnosis is not as important as how the condition affects your ability to function as a driver." And, "WisDOT may cancel a license or deny an application for a license whenever the medical standards are not met OR whenever a physician indicates a person is not able to safely operate a motor vehicle." (

I also found out that if your license is canceled or denied because of a medical or mental condition, you are entitled to a review by a Medical Review Board. Until such time, you are prohibited from driving. If you are required to be re-tested and you refuse or do not show up for your scheduled appointments, your license will be revoked until you are re-tested. Terry Ewing, Chief of Technical and Training from WisDOT is available to answer your specific questions about re-testing. If you can't find the answers to your questions from the listed resources above, give him a call for clarification. His number is 608-266-042 V/Relay. In the meantime, give yourself plenty of time when you visit your DMV office. There are typically long waiting lines. Good luck and drive safely - ALWAYS.

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