States could use existing federal resources to make roads safer, says GAO

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Disconnects between federal and state information databases allow some unsafe drivers to operate commercial grade vehicles like tractor-trailers and put other motorists at risk, says the Government Accountability Office.

In a report (.pdf) dated Nov. 30, GAO says it found 230 drivers with commercial driver's licenses who had epilepsy, a disqualifying medical condition due to related seizures and unconsciousness, and says their state licenses should have been revoked because Social Security Administration files noted the illness. Thirty-one of these drivers were involved in accidents.

GAO also found 23 cases where state licensing agencies either issued or renewed commercial licenses for drivers with epilepsy or drug or alcohol dependencies, which disqualifies them from driving under Transportation Department regulations.

The report says DOT did not require state licensing agencies to maintain medical certifications at the time of the GAO review, so the states likely did not know of the medical conditions. "In fact, they were unable to provide medical certifications for any of the 23 individuals," says the report.

States are now required to begin electronically storing medical certificates to check against when issuing or renewing CDL licenses. They must have electronic records for all commercial license holders by Jan. 2014.

For its report, GAO looked through records from the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration's roadside-inspection clearinghouse, DOT's Commercial Driver License Information System, a national database of all commercial drivers and the SSA's disability insurance files.

It recommends these resources be connected to the state repositories and the upcoming DOT clearinghouse of commercial driver controlled-substance and alcohol test results and a national registry of medical examiners qualified to certify driver fitness, both of which are mandated by the July 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

For more:
read the report, GAO-13-13 (.pdf)

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