For Immediate Release: February 8, 2023
Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400
Senator Portantino Introduces Bill to Protect Drivers with Epilepsy
Sacramento, California –Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) introduced Senate Bill 357 today, a bill which seeks to give doctors the discretion to report any conditions they believe will impair a patient’s inability to drive, by removing language that discriminates against specific conditions, including epilepsy.
“SB 357 protects drivers with epilepsy by improving the patient-physician relationship,” stated Senator Portantino. “It’s time to remove the discriminatory practice of mandatory reporting in California and allow individuals affected by epilepsy to seek the care they need without fear of losing their driving licenses.”
Epilepsy is the fourth-most common neurological disorder, affecting more than 3.4 million Americans and more than 425,000 Californians. Yet here in California, an outdated state law from 1957 discriminates against drivers with epilepsy and other conditions by requiring physicians to automatically report these drivers to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Research has shown that these requirements often result in patients withholding crucial information from their physicians and not seeking the care they need, out of fear of losing their right to drive. When a person with epilepsy withholds such critical information from their doctor, they jeopardize their access to appropriate care, risking an increase of seizure activity or even a loss of seizure control.
SB 357 will:
- Give doctors the discretion to report any conditions they believe will impair a patient’s inability to drive, by removing language that discriminates against specific conditions, including epilepsy;
- Allow but not require doctors to make such reports; and
- Protect the doctor-patient relationship by providing immunity for physician for either reporting or not reporting patients.
“We thank Senator Portantino for authoring this important legislation. People living with epilepsy should be able to seek care from their doctors without fear of losing their driver’s licenses,” said Rebekkah Halliwell, Executive Director of Epilepsy Foundation Los Angeles. “Based on an outdated law from 1957, California is one of the only states that still requires doctors to report all patients with epilepsy to the DMV, but research has shown that mandatory reporting requirements may lead people with epilepsy to withhold crucial information from their doctors, risking an increase in seizures, which can lead to injury and even death. By removing mandatory reporting while still allowing doctors to identify any patient they believe might not be able to drive safely, Senator Portantino’s bill protects the doctor-patient relationship, improves access to care for people with epilepsy and ends decades of discrimination against the more than 425,000 Californians living with epilepsy.”