“Can I drive with epilepsy?” – Get the facts…

28th November 2017

Whether you already hold a licence, or you’re hoping to apply for one for the first time, it’s a legal requirement that you tell the DVLA (For UK) about your epilepsy.

So, what does this mean for people with epilepsy? It’s a common myth that if you have epilepsy you will never be able to drive, however, in many cases this is untrue.

If you have experienced a seizure you must tell the DVLA immediately, unless you meet the two exceptions:

  • The DVLA are already aware that you have sleep seizures and you hold a licence under the understanding that your seizures only occur whilst asleep.
  • The seizures you have don’t affect your consciousness and you already hold a licence under this understanding with the DVLA.

Please note: If a seizure occurs, whether asleep or unaffecting of consciousness and it’s your first time you will need to contact the DVLA. The above exceptions are only if seizures occur after you have notified the DVLA. Similarly, if you normally have sleep seizures and the DVLA are aware, but you then have one whilst awake you will still need to inform the DVLA.

In fact, at National Epilepsy Training, we employ a man named Bryn who has epilepsy and sometimes experiences seizures in his sleep. His job? He’s our driver and we feel perfectly safe in the car with him. It’s always best to check with the DVLA to be certain, but Bryn is proof that it’s possible to drive with epilepsy and even hold a job that involves driving.

What happens if you don’t tell the DVLA about your epilepsy?

It can be tempting to just not say anything if you’re confident your epilepsy won’t affect your driving. However, we would always recommend that you tell the DVLA. First and foremost because it’s for your own safety, as well as other drivers and pedestrians. If you have a seizure whilst driving it can be incredibly dangerous. Furthermore, you’re unlikely to be covered by your car insurance should they find out you have epilepsy and you could risk incurring fines of up to £1,000.

The rules on driving with epilepsy

The law on driving with epilepsy can be quite complicated and will be judged on a case by case basis. However, there are a few guidelines to give you some idea. It comes down mostly to when your seizures occur when you’re awake or asleep.

If your seizures occur both when you’re awake and asleep, you should be able to drive if you:

  • Have been seizure free (both awake and asleep) for over 12 months
  • Stop having seizures whilst you’re awake and have been having sleep only seizures for at least 3 years

If you only ever have seizures whilst you’re asleep then you should be able to drive if you:

  • Have never had an awake seizure
  • You have been having sleep only seizures for at least one year

There are other criteria that apply to people with epilepsy whether they have awake or asleep seizures:

  • You follow your doctor’s recommendations and treatments to the best of your ability.
  • The DVLA is satisfied that you are not a danger on the roads and unlikely to cause an accident.

It’s worth noting that you may be subject to extra conditions should you need to apply for a Group 2 licence for buses, coaches, lorries and other HGV’s.

Please note, this post is only intended as guidance and we must stress the importance of consulting with your health professional and the DVLA before driving with epilepsy.