Crash raises questions about drivers with medical conditions

Tomato Head crash raises questions about drivers with medical conditions

Posted:
"Unless the actual person itself, a doctor, or a family member reports it to the state, our driver improvement department, we have no idea," Kimberly Bounds with the DMV said. "Unless the actual person itself, a doctor, or a family member reports it to the state, our driver improvement department, we have no idea," Kimberly Bounds with the DMV said.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Thursday's accident at the Tomato Head restaurant in West Knoxville has raised questions about whether certain medical conditions should prohibit people from driving.

The driver in the crash that killed a Bledsoe County Middle School principal has an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis, according to his lawyer Jim Andrews.

It's still unknown whether his illness played a role in the crash.

Police said the cause of the crash is still under investigation. Andrews said his client, Dewayne Kelley, had a valid driver's license.

There is no state law prohibiting someone with a medical condition like multiple sclerosis to drive.

According to driver's license examiner Kimberly Bounds, it's not required by law for a person with a medical condition to report the illness to the Department of Motor Vehicles after already receiving a Tennessee driver's license.

It's only when and if a doctor, law enforcement officer or other person brings it to the department's attention that the driver could be evaluated.

"Unless the actual person itself, a doctor, or a family member reports it to the state, our driver improvement department, we have no idea," Bounds said.

The driver's license application form does include questions about health that would alert the department about an illness like multiple sclerosis, but if the person develops the illness after getting the license, it's possible the condition won't be reported right away.

The effects of multiple sclerosis vary with each patient but they can include numbness in the feet, blurred vision and fatigue.

"It could have an impact on their reaction time," Bounds said. "Their vision, they might not be able to judge the situation they're in."

If the Department of Safety decides the person needs to undergo a driving evaluation, he or she will be tested by a specialist.

"We actually take them behind the wheel in the vehicle where its adapted and we have control of the instructor's side and we start in a parking lot and go from there into a neighborhood and then into traffic," certified driver rehab specialist Christy Horner said.

Bounds said drivers who have had accidents caused by the illness must wait at least six months before their licenses could be reinstated.

"If it's a progressive neurological condition like multiple sclerosis, we recommend periodic evaluations," Horner said.

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