Health Affects Drivers

Feb 232004
Authors: Brittany Burke

Annette Martinez had a “wake-up call from God,” but that call is

now affecting her driving privileges.

“It is such pain to depend on other people,” Martinez said. “Our

society wants immediate gratification. I never gave jumping into a

car a second thought.”

Like many others with driving restrictions, Martinez can’t jump

into her car anymore because of an unexpected seizure she had on

Jan. 1. She is not allowed to drive for six months. Martinez thinks

the seizure might have been the result of poisoning from aspartame,

a sugar substitute used in things like diet sodas.

Martinez, a first-grade teacher, and her two sons were driving

home from a day of errands when she started to swerve off the road.

When Martinez began to seizure, her oldest son Jose, 19, had to

move her foot off the accelerator and push down on the brake with

his left hand while maneuvering the wheel with his right hand.

“Thinking quick and staying calm saved our lives,” Martinez


Martinez’s younger son Julio, 15, kept her head stable while

they moved the car into a turning lane before calling 911.

CSU Police Department Cpl. Rodney Smith said situations like

this might happen more often than people think.

“The cause of the accident might go unreported,” Smith said.

“The person might even die.”

Smith said a person might be charged with careless driving if an

accident results from a health-related accident. The officer at the

scene would than require that person to visit the Department of

Revenue and a doctor.

Wes Haynes, an officer for Fort Collins Police Services, said

police could ticket drivers for violating restrictions on their

driver’s license.

“Violations vary from fines to jail time,” Haynes said.

“Sometimes (health-related accidents) are just unfortunate.”

Legally speaking, an employer or parent may be held liable.

“It comes down to the question of what should they have

reasonably known,” said Robert Irving, an attorney at the R. S.

Irving Law Firm of Fort Collins.

According to Doug Barbee, the regional manager in the Department

of Motor Vehicles within the Department of Revenue, if a person

claims to have a medical problem that might conflict with their

driving ability, the DMV gives them a form to take to a doctor. The

doctor then decides what the driving limitations are on a personal


“It comes up quite frequently,” said Dr. Marilu Orozco-Peterson

of Heritage Family Medicine, 363 W. Drake Road # 9.

Orozco-Peterson thinks people with moderate dementia should have

some driving restrictions. Also medication that can cause

sleepiness might lead to driving issues.

“(Curing problems) depends on the condition,” Orozco-Peterson

said. “Sometimes we can work around medication and deal with the

side effects.”

Orozco-Peterson thinks her profession has an interesting


“Of course our first job is to help our patients,” she said.

“But we are also protecting the public welfare. We have a greater

call for public safety.”

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