Cuomo Signs Bill Revoking Licenses From Drivers With ‘Medical Episodes’

Photo: NY1
Photo: NY1

Reckless drivers now have one less excuse to hide behind.

Gov. Cuomo has signed a bill that revokes the license of any driver who tells police that he or she lost consciousness behind the wheel after a crash, and requires them to get medically cleared before they’re allowed to drive again.

Assembly Member Robert Carroll introduced the legislation after driver Dorothy Bruns killed Abigail Blumstein and Joshua Lew in March 2018 after she suffered a seizure behind the wheel — a medical condition that her doctor had previously diagnosed, but not reported. On Thursday, Carroll hailed Cuomo’s bill signing as a “significant step” forward in dealing with the problem of drivers losing consciousness due to medical conditions, yet still retaining their license to drive.

The new law establishes “a bright line,” Carroll said. Previously under state law, if police determined that someone lost consciousness while driving, that person could still keep his or her driver’s license while the Department of Motor Vehicles reviewed the driver’s medical history.

“When we reviewed previous cases, we saw that things were falling by the wayside and the proper protocols weren’t always being followed when these situations arose,” Carroll said. “So when these crashes happened, people were driving who were medically unfit to drive and putting themselves and others in danger.”

In Bruns’s case, Carroll said that six weeks before the fatal crash in Park Slope, she had crashed into a parked car possibly after losing consciousness, and that under the terms of the new law she wouldn’t have been able to drive if the police had cited that as a factor. Also, her doctor would be able to report her to state authorities, though medical professionals are not under any affirmative obligation to do so.

Much like “I didn’t know I hit someone,” drivers who tell police they suffered a medical episode of some kind will often walk away without consequences. Earlier in December, police excused a driver who caused a three-car chain reaction crash that injured multiple pedestrians by telling reporters that the driver suffered an unknown medical episode. In September, Alexander Katchaloff told cops he suffered a medical episode after driving onto the sidewalk and killing 10-year-old Enzo Farachio. Katchaloff’s excuse is still under investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, but he is still a licensed driver today.

Drivers have been occasionally held liable for crashes they blamed on medical episodes, but only when prosecutors can show that the person knowingly stopped taking medication that prevented such episodes or ignored doctor’s warnings not to drive. That’s how Bruns was eventually charged with manslaughter and homicide in 2018 — though she committed suicide before facing those charges.

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