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State Senate Committee Approves Local Senator’s Bill Designed to Protect Drivers with Epilepsy

Published on Thursday, April 13, 2023 | 5:50 am

The Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 357, which would give doctors the discretion to report conditions they believe will impair a patient’s ability to drive. The bill, introduced by Sen. Anthony J. Portantino, D-Burbank, further eliminates language that portrays certain conditions, including epilepsy.

Portantino said the bill is necessary to protect the doctor-patient relationship and to ensure that drivers with epilepsy are not discriminated against.

“It’s time to remove the discriminatory practice of mandatory reporting in California,” said Senator Portantino. “SB 357 protects drivers with epilepsy by improving the patient-physician relationship and allows individuals affected by epilepsy to seek the care they need without fear of losing their driving licenses.”

According to the Epilepsy Foundation Los Angeles, California’s 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.

Epilepsy is the fourth-most common neurological disorder in America, affecting more than 3.4 million individuals nationwide and more than 425,000 Californians. When individuals with epilepsy withhold crucial information from their physicians, they put their access to appropriate care at risk, potentially increasing seizure activity or losing seizure control.

SB 357 would give doctors the option to report conditions they believe will impair a patient’s ability to drive, without discriminating against specific conditions, including epilepsy, Portantino said in a statement.

The bill would allow but not require doctors to make such reports and will provide immunity for physicians for either reporting or not reporting patients. The bill would also require the California Department of Motor Vehicles to publish a report by 2027 on the differences in patterns of reporting and crash rates under a voluntary reporting system, and add a sunset on the voluntary reporting system for 2029.

Rebekkah Halliwell, Executive Director of Epilepsy Foundation Los Angeles, expressed appreciation for Senator Portantino for authoring this critical legislation that will protect the doctor-patient relationship, improve access to care for people with epilepsy, and help end what was called decades of discrimination against the more than 425,000 Californians living with epilepsy. 

Senator Portantino’s Senate Bill 301, which aims to create a financial rebate program to convert gas and diesel-powered motor vehicles into zero-emissions-vehicles (ZEVs), also passed the Senate Transportation Committee.

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