Driver Medical Fitness
The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles is responsible for assessing drivers and making driver fitness decisions. The primary tool used for this assessment is the Driver’s Medical Examination Report (DMER), completed by the driver’s physician — it helps assess the severity, progression, treatment or effects of any medical condition(s) that the driver may have that could affect their fitness to drive.
Driver Medical Examination Reports are completed at various times and intervals depending on:
- the age of the driver;
- the class of driver’s licence held;
- when a driver has a medical condition that may affect driving or when a reliable report of a potentially dangerous condition that may affect driving is received.
Physicians, optometrists and registered psychologists must report patients, whom they believe are unfit to drive, to the Superintendent as outlined in the Motor Vehicle Act.
If a physician indicates in the Driver Medical Examination Report that a driver has a condition affecting driving, the Superintendent makes a case-by-case determination regarding the person’s driving privileges. The determination could involve requesting the driver provide further medical information or complete a functional assessment. Some examples of types of functional assessments include a DriveAble assessment, an assessment by an occupational therapist, or a driver re-examination (road test). The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles reviews the information in each individual circumstance and establishes what the most appropriate assessment is. In some circumstances the Superintendent may need to cancel the individual’s driver’s licence.
All driver fitness cases are reviewed by a team of intake agents, adjudicators and case managers (registered nurses). Case managers are responsible for making decisions on medically complicated cases and providing consultation to adjudicators as required.
Driver fitness guidelines were developed in partnership with the British Columbia Medical Association, to help the Superintendent better assess the effects that a medical condition has on the driver’s cognitive, sensory and motor functions necessary for driving. The guidelines are published as:
The driver fitness guidelines are also available in a more condensed form with quick-links in this Driver Fitness Handbook for Medical Professionals.
The Superintendent ensures that drivers are given the maximum licensing privileges possible taking into account their medical condition, the condition’s impact on the functions necessary for driving and the driver’s ability to compensate for the condition. However, the primary consideration when making driver fitness determinations is public safety.
Driver's Medical Examination Report (DMER)
The Driver Medical Examination Report (DMER) is the primary tool used by the Superintendent to assess the severity, progression, treatment or effects of a medical condition, if any, in regards to a driver’s fitness to drive. Drivers are requested to have the DMER completed and sent to the Superintendent when:
- holding a commercial class driver’s licence (this is done at regular intervals)
- a previously identified medical condition may affect driving
- a reliable report of a potentially dangerous condition is received from a medical professional, police officer, concerned family member or other individual
- a driver reaches age 80 and at regular intervals thereafter as this is an age where medical conditions affecting driving are more common
The Superintendent’s office will review the completed Driver’s Medical Examination Report and let the driver know if any more information or assessment is required. The Superintendent will also notify the driver, in writing, of any driver’s licence status changes which occur as a result of the information on the report.
Below is a sample copy of the Driver Medical Examination Report:
Important: Driver Medical Examination Reports must be completed and returned to the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) within 45 days of receipt or the driver’s licence may be cancelled. Information and instructions are provided on the back of the form. There may be situations where it is not possible to meet the timelines as indicated on the forms. If this is the case, it is necessary that the driver contact the OSMV as soon as possible. Failure to do so may result in the cancellation of the driver’s licence.
The Assessment Process
The Driver Fitness program staff are delegated by the Superintendent to conduct driver fitness assessments and make decisions on an individual’s driving privileges. Program staff include intake agents who respond to public and client phone enquiries and make first order driver fitness decisions, and adjudicators and case managers who make driver fitness decisions on the more complex cases.
The Superintendent uses a functional approach to determining driver fitness, assessing the effect(s) that a medical condition has on the driver’s cognitive, sensory and motor functions that are necessary for driving.
In making driver fitness determinations, the Superintendent considers:
- Research associating the medical condition with adverse driving outcomes or evidence of functional impairment.
- Expert opinion regarding the degree of risk associated with the medical condition at various severity levels.
- The individual characteristics and abilities of the driver (i.e. private or commercial driver; compensation for the functional impairment; compliance with treatment regime; insight into the impact that their medical condition may have on driving).
When appropriate, the Superintendent utilizes individual functional assessments to determine whether an individual’s functional ability to drive is impaired and, if so, whether the individual can compensate. For example, the Superintendent may require a driver to take a vision test, a functional driving assessment, a driver re-examination (road test), or complete a medical or other examination in order to help determine fitness to drive.
Upon assessment, the Superintendent may deny, cancel, or restrict any class of driver’s licence where there is reliable medical evidence that someone has a medical condition which affects that person’s ability to drive safely.
Under section 29 of the Motor Vehicle Act, the Superintendent may also cancel a driver’s licence if the driver has not complied with a requirement to complete an assessment or exam needed to make a driver fitness determination. The driver’s licence would remain cancelled until the driver complies with the requirement.
Driver's Re-Examinations (Road Tests)
The Superintendent may require that a driver complete a driver re-examination (road test) as part of the process of making a driver fitness determination. The Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) administers the exams on the Superintendent’s behalf. There is no fee charged for re-examinations.
Some of the most common reasons for a driver’s re-exam are:
- A doctor reports a medical condition that may affect a person’s fitness or ability to drive safely
- Results of a previous re-exam suggest follow-up testing is necessary
- An accident report, police report or other report indicates a driver may be unable or unsure how to handle a common driving situation
For more information on driver re-examinations, go to ICBC’s webpage: Driver re-exam road test.
Commercial Driver's Fitness Requirements
The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles follows the National Safety Code’s (NSC) schedule of medical monitoring for commercial drivers.
Class 1 to 4 drivers and those with an industrial licence endorsement (e.g. airbrake's) are required to have a Driver’s Medical Examination Report completed at the time of application and on the NSC schedule thereafter. The Driver’s Medical Examination Report is mailed to the driver when it is time to complete the examination.
Further information concerning this requirement and instructions are provided on the back of the Driver’s Medical Examination Report form.
For further information, please refer to the following Fact Sheets:
Code W is an identifier to be placed on the front of a commercial driver’s licence, to indicate that the operator has a medical condition that prohibits the operation of a commercial vehicle in the United States.
ICBC will begin issuing licences with the Code W identifier on January 30, 2014. This will bring the province into compliance with NAFTA obligations. For more information please see the Code W Fact Sheet.
Drivers with Epilepsy or Diabetes
Under the Motor Vehicle Act, the Superintendent has the responsibility for determining the fitness to drive of people who hold or are applying for a British Columbia driver’s licence.
Drivers who have a medical condition, such as diabetes or epilepsy, which has the potential to affect their fitness to drive, may be required to have their doctor complete a Driver’s Medical Examination Report. This report is designed to provide the Superintendent with information needed to decide whether someone is fit and able to drive.
For further information, please refer to the following Fact Sheets:
Reporting Your Concern about a Person's Fitness to Drive
Health care practitioners, family members, or concerned citizens can send a report to the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) regarding concerns they have a about a driver’s fitness to drive safely.
The report must include the driver’s full name and other identifying information. A driver’s licence number is preferable but not required. Details concerning the driver’s fitness to drive safely must also be included in the report.
The full name of the person providing the report and a contact number or address is also required. The OSMV will not consider anonymous reports or verbal reports.
Unsolicited reports expressing concerns regarding a driver’s safety on the road are given high priority by the OSMV. The report will be reviewed and, if a decision is made that medical information or another exam is required, the driver will be contacted directly. For further information, please refer to the following Fact Sheet:
Requesting Review to Reconsider a Driver Medical Fitness Decision
If your medical fitness was assessed and you are not satisfied with the outcome of the decision, you may request a review of the decision (called an Administrative Justice Decision) that denied, cancelled or placed restrictions on your driver’s licence. Also, should your medical condition improve later, you may request a review of the decision. See the Disputes, Appeals and Reviews page on this website.
Alternatives to Driving
If you are thinking about retiring from driving, there are a number of resources to help you maintain your identification needs, independence, and mobility.
If you use your driver’s licence as photo ID, you can exchange it for a free official BC Identification card, which is accepted as ID anywhere a driver’s licence is accepted.
It bears your photo and includes all the same security features as a driver’s licence - you can get one for free at any Driver Licensing Office (ICBC or Service BC).
For a comprehensive list of resources to help you get around town and beyond, click the picture below to be taken to SeniorsBC.ca.
Or the Medically-At-Risk Driver Centre’s database of alternatives to driving in BC
Please note that the above resources are not maintained by the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, and therefore may not be current, and are subject to change.