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High school students inspire bill to add blood type to license

Virginia State Capitol
Virginia State Capitol(WDBJ7)
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 5:35 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. -- Fairfax County high school students spearheaded a bill that will allow Virginia residents to indicate blood type on their license.

Sen. George L. Barker, D-Fairfax, introduced Senate Bill 345 during the regular General Assembly session. The Senate and House approved the bill, which will take effect in July 2023.

Residents will be able to indicate blood type on their license or identification cards to help emergency medical service agencies provide emergency medical support.

“I don’t think this will be something that would be used very widely, but it has been used sometimes and in other states,” Barker said.

Barker has worked with Centreville High School government students every year since he took office in 2008, he said. Each year students research necessary legislation. They look at passed legislation and what other states have done. Students present about eight bills for consideration for the General Assembly each session, according to Barker.

Jay O’Brien, the previous senator of Barker’s district, also worked on the legislative program with the students. There are common elements to the bills that students have introduced, Barker said. Most proposed bills pertained to transportation or bills similar to SB 345. Students in the same program proposed SB 418, requiring 911 services to receive and process text messages for emergency assistance. The legislation went into effect in 2018.

“What I’m looking for in these situations is what can really make a difference in somebody’s life,” Barker said. “In this particular case this [SB 345] might help save somebody’s life.”

Applicants who wish to participate will have the option to state their blood type when applying or renewing their driver’s license or identification card.

The Senate passed SB 345 unanimously, but the bill faced scrutiny once it reached the House. Most hesitation has been due to liability reasons, Barker said. He worked with the Department of Motor Vehicles to address those concerns.

The DMV is not responsible for verifying participants’ blood type and is not liable for the accuracy of data the cardholder provides, according to the bill’s impact statement.

Craig Evans is the executive director of the Northern Virginia Emergency Medical Services Council, a nonprofit that seeks to improve emergency medical care in Northern Virginia.

“The effects of getting the wrong blood is catastrophic,” Evans said.

The new bill won’t have much impact on health care workers, Evans said.

Inova Health System, Inova Trauma and Blood Donor Services and the Northern Virginia EMS Council previously worked together with Fairfax and Loudoun counties fire departments to create a blood distribution program, according to Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System.

Field Available Component Transfusion Response, or FACT*R, is an initiative that allows emergency responders to transport life-saving resources like blood to the field for transfusions, which increase chances of keeping the patient alive. FACT*R was created in 2017 after the death of Erin Kaplan as a result of a crash. She was traveling with her mother and three children, who survived due to the blood transfusions at the scene.

Eligible ambulances and medical vehicles can transport universal blood that can be used in transfusions for any blood type, according to Evans.

“Looking at the driver’s license again and saying somebody’s AB negative doesn’t mean we’re going to believe that; we’re not going to take that risk,” Evans said. “That’s not a decision point where it’s safe to give them AB negative blood.”

Similar initiatives have been implemented in Georgia. The Georgia Department of Driver Services asks if drivers want to indicate their blood type when applying for a new or renewed driver’s license or identification card.

The estimated cost for the program is just under $72,00 and will require 970 staff hours for DMV employees, according to the bill’s impact statement. The total cost to display blood would cost DMV about $136,000.

The cardholder can request to remove the blood type indication and have the license reissued, with applicable fees, if they later change their mind.

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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