Medical Alerts Designations on Driver’s Licenses for Seniors

Introduction

A medical alert designation may be applied to a senior’s driver’s license to indicate a medical condition that may need immediate attention during an emergency. When medical emergencies occur, having the correct medical information available can save lives. In most states, a special area is designated on the front or back of a driver’s license and identification card.

The medical condition may be listed on the driver’s license, or the license may indicate to emergency responders that the senior is carrying a separate emergency medical card.

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Overview

Seniors must request the medical alert identifier be placed on their driver’s license at the time of their photograph. Licensing agencies will then provide a space where medical conditions can be listed. The senior must also present a signed physician's statement indicating the medical conditions so that records may be electronically filed.

Although many states offer the option of medical alert designation, not all states participate in this practice. Other states may list similar information on a senior’s driver license through restrictions and code designations so that medical conditions are not visible for all to see at first glance.

Advantages of a Medical Alert Driver’s License Designation
  • Voluntary: Seniors are not mandated and may voluntarily choose to list medical conditions on the back of their driver’s licenses or state identification cards.
  • Advocates for the senior: A medical alert designation on a driver’s license can aid emergency responders in knowing how to best treat seniors who may be confused or unconscious.
  • Minimize risks: If a senior is driving erratically and has a medical alert designation on record, law enforcement officers can take into consideration the medical condition, such as a seizure condition or brain injury, as a factor when attempting to stop the vehicle.
  • Discrete: If a senior chooses not to wear a medical alert device, they may choose to include a medical alert designation on their license to avoid gaining the attention of others.
Disadvantagesof a Medical Alert Driver’s License Designation
  • No guarantee: If a senior experiences a medical emergency in which they are unable to speak or call for help, a medical alert designation on their driver’s license does not guarantee that the senior can receive the care they require in a timely manner. Oftentimes, medical personnel and bystanders will check for medical alert devices instead.  
  • Risks of being stolen: Unfortunately, if a senior’s wallet is stolen, the senior will be at risk of having their driver’s license stolen. In this instance, the senior will be required to renew their license and pay the applicable fees.
  • Restrictions: A variety of medical conditions and disabilities qualify seniors to add medical alert designations to their drivers license, however, some conditions may restrict license issuance to only a two-year period, regardless of the senior’s age.
Enhancement Options for Medical Alert Driver’s License Designations
  • In addition to having a medical alert designation applied to their driver licenses, seniors can also choose to carry an emergency wallet cards which list vital medical information, emergency contacts, medications, allergies, implanted devices, etc.
Cost Consideration for Medical Alert Driver’s License Designation

In most states, a medical alert designation can be added to driver licenses at no cost.In select states, a fee up to $5 may be required. When a senior renews their driver's license, they will be required to resubmit medical documentation. If the medical condition no longer exists, the senior must submit documentation completed by a physician indicating that the condition no longer exists.

Additional Considerations for Medical Alert Driver’s License Designation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 120 million people require emergency medical assistance on the highways each year in the United States.Oftentimes, a senior’s medical condition may affect their ability to drive, resulting in near and actual accidents. In some states, seniors can choose to add a medical alert designation to their driver’s license.

In the event of an emergency in which a senior maybe either unconscious or unable to communicate with medical personnel, a medical alert designation on a driver’s license can advise bystanders and emergency personnel of all diagnosed medical conditions. When medical personnel are informed and aware of medical conditions the senior may have, efficient care can be provided in a timely manner.

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