How California driving laws address mental health and why it matters

Driving is one everyday activity people might take for granted, but in California, people with some mental health conditions may have significant challenges getting behind the wheel. According to state law, California’s DMV is authorized to investigate if a driver has a mental condition that makes them unfit to drive safely, and suspend that driver’s license if necessary.

Alzheimer’s disease, bi-polar disorder, anxiety, depression, and PTSD are some of the conditions the DMV has suspended past licenses for. These conditions can be legally disclosed to the DMV by a driver’s physician, or by one of the driver’s friends or family members in a confidential report. However, having a mental health issue is not automatic grounds for suspension, as the DMV may decide there is no cause for concern.

In other states such as Texas, there has been some controversy about how driving applications handle questions concerning mental health issues. Mental health advocates have expressed concern about these questions creating stigma against mental health disorders or invading privacy and being unfair.

California is one of the states that does not ask probing questions about mental health on its driving applications. Yet California still has laws that take drivers’ mental health into account before letting them use the roads freely. The aim of these laws is not to stigmatize mental health conditions or to automatically disqualify people with these conditions from driving. Like all driving laws, they are intended to protect you and other drivers and they must be observed and followed for the safety of everyone on the road.