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Should Colorado’s Honor System for Driver’s Licenses Be Changed?

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Colorado. Department of Revenue. Motor Vehicle Division. Driver's License Section.

Colorado. Department of Revenue. Motor Vehicle Division. Driver’s License Section.

Is driving safety in Colorado being compromised because of the state’s honor system, which trusts drivers to honestly admit their health conditions on their driver’s licenses? A recent news item and a newspaper editorial imply that this is possible.

CALL7 Investigation found that “drivers are essentially on the honor system,” as Keli Rabon and Jason Foster write for The Denver Channel. The subheading to their article’s headline says: “No system to verify driver reveals health problems.”

Rabin and Foster write:

Conditions like heart problems, diabetes, seizures, and epilepsy can significantly impair a driver, so if the applicant discloses having a condition like this, they’re automatically denied a license. State law does allow for an appeals process, which involves the applicant’s doctor verifying that the individual is safe to drive.  

But if the applicant denies having one of these medical conditions, little can be done to ensure they are telling the truth.

Other states have stricter requirements, requiring doctors to report epilepsy, for example, to their Divisions of Motor Vehicles, and requiring that a driver not have had a seizure for a specified amount of time, Rabon found in her investigation. Some states, she said, also require medical updates on a regular basis from drivers.

However, Colorado does allow law enforcement officials, judges, doctors, or immediate family members to ask that a driver be re-examined if they think that driver is not healthy enough to drive, Rabon and Foster write. A re-examination consists of an eye exam, a written test, and a driving test, they add, reporting that in fiscal year 2014, the state revoked 1,311 driver’s licenses because of drivers who did not pass their re-examinations.

A Denver Post editorial says that the case of Christopher Booker is a cautionary tale about the tragedy that can result when drivers fail to honestly report their medical conditions on their licenses. Booker reportedly had a seizure, they write, and then hit four Denver police officers in December, seriously injuring one of them. Booker is facing first-degree assault and vehicular assault charges, they write.

Although there is no indication that Booker intentionally caused the car accident, he neglected to reveal his condition in nine applications for driver’s licenses between 2006 and 2015, the editorial board writes, even though he had a known history of seizures. Booker’s case “goes to the integrity of Colorado’s driver’s license system,” the editorial says. In charging Booker, the state is “rightly showing” that it takes seriously Colorado drivers’ obligation to be “scrupulously honest” about their fitness to drive, the editorial says.

In a comment to the Denver Post editorial, weirdochemist writes:

Sorry, but this editorial isn’t going to change anything. I know someone who had a seizure, while driving, and was only rescued by her son grabbing the wheel. She still demanded that it was her “right to drive and no one can interfere with it.” Her doctor told her she was supposed to report to the DMV and have her license taken away after having a grand mal in the doctor’s office, but the doctor relented after her … sob story about why she needed a license.

The self-reporting mechanism needs to go away; I’ve known two people who haven’t cared. They want it to apply to everyone else; just not them.

Doctors also need to be held accountable in some way for not reporting people; I was angry at my friend, but even more angry at the doctor who should have reported her.


My daughter and I first consulted with Dan Rosen after a very serious auto accident. Dan had several phone conferences with me, and Tracie was available whenever I called. We would recommend personal injury attorney Dan Rosen to anyone!
Sally from Denver, Colorado

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