What is the Legislation concerning driving and epilepsy?
It is important to note that having epilepsy does not automatically disqualify you from being legally permitted to drive. In fact, many people with epilepsy do drive.
When can you drive (a non-commercial vehicle)?
- Your seizures appear to have been prevented by medication AND:
- You have been free from seizures for 6 months and your medication does not cause drowsiness or poor co- ordination.
- Your physician believes you are a conscientious patient who will take medication responsibly and follow all of the physician’s instructions carefully.
- You are under regular medical supervision and your physician believes you will report any further seizure(s) to him or her at once.
- You have had a single spontaneous seizure unrelated to any toxic illness and for which a full neurological examination reveals no form of epileptic activity.
- You have had seizures ONLY during sleep, or immediately upon awakening, for at least five years.
- You have been seizure-free for at least one year and then have a seizure after decreasing medication under your physician’s advice and supervision. You may drive once you have resumed taking your previous medication at the prescribed dosage.
When can you not drive?
Within 6 months of your last epileptic seizure.
- If you are presently taking anti-epileptic medication which causes you to experience drowsiness or poor muscle control.
- If you require medication to prevent seizures but persistently drink alcoholic beverages to excess or do not comply fully with your physician’s prescribed treatment.
- Avoid driving for more than six hours at a time or at night or in rush-hour traffic and any alcohol, especially if you are taking anti-epileptic medication.
- If you require medication to prevent epileptic seizures, you must remain under regular medical supervision as long as you continue to drive and stop driving immediately if seizures recur.
- If you have had one or more epileptic seizures in adolescence or adult life, do not start or continue to drive before careful medical assessment.
What about driving a commercial vehicle?
- You must be seizure-free for 5 years AND not taking any anti-epileptic medication as directed by your physician.
- You have had only one seizure with no indication of epilepsy, and have been seizure-free for 12 months.
- You are taking anti-epileptic medications, but have been seizure free for 10 years.
Does the doctor have the right to tell me not to drive?
You are not officially suspended from driving until such time as you receive a notice from Motor Registration Division (MRD). However, you may be held liable in civil court for any traffic accident if you have disregarded your physician’s advice not to drive. You should check with your insurance company with respect to your coverage in such an event.
How does my doctor know if I am honest about my seizures?
Your neurologist relies on you to disclose honest and comprehensive information about your seizure history. It is in your best interest to be truthful with your neurologist and thereby ensure the best possible treatment. There is a direct connection between the information you provide and the treatment you receive. If reporting your seizures to your doctor results in changes in lifestyle, remember that your health is a priority. Your neurologist will likely do blood level tests to see if the medication is in its therapeutic range. This may indicate absorption or compliance problems. Altered dosages or different medications may be prescribed, which will improve your seizure control.
What happens after the doctor sends in the report?
You will receive a request from the MRD to provide detailed medical information within a reasonable time frame or have your license suspended OR a notice of suspension with a letter of explanation.
The reply you receive depends on the information and level of detail submitted to the MRD by the reporting physician. (Note: Hospital Emergency or clinic physicians also report individuals who have a condition which might interfere with safe driving. The MRD evaluates these reports in exactly the same manner as one from your own physician.)
Usually, the MRD requests further information in order to confirm that a suspension is warranted. Many people are reported as a result of the physician’s initial observations (e.g., in Emergency Dept.); but after a thorough investigation, a suspension is not justified.
(Note: Be careful about changing doctors during this process. The MRD could perceive you as manipulating the truth of the matter. You will almost certainly be asked to explain any inconsistencies reported by different physicians before the MRD allows you to drive.
Do I need to inform the MRD even though my condition is fully controlled?
Yes. Epilepsy is recognized as a condition that may interfere with safe driving. Answering “Yes” does not, of course, mean that your license will automatically be suspended. If the MRD does not have a file for you, however, they may request information regarding the date of your last seizure and your current medication.
Should I go on sick leave if I have lost my driver’s licence?
This is an issue you should discuss with your doctor. If he or she agrees, then short-term leave may be the best solution while searching for effective treatment of your seizures. Note that short-term leave will not guarantee re-instatement of your license; you must still be seizure-free for 6 months first.
Be aware also that short-term leave may cause unnecessary employer concerns about your ability to do your job on an ongoing basis. At work you can still perform the other functions of your job even if you can’t drive. Other solutions include performing other tasks or exchanging duties with a co-worker.
What happens if I drive while my licence is suspended?
Remember that your name and details are entered in the police database at the time of suspension. If the police catch you driving, you will be charged with driving while under suspension. You could receive a fine, an extended suspension, and go to jail. And should you have an accident, whether or not epilepsy precipitated the accident, you will likely find that your insurance has also been suspended. Consequently you will likely end up in civil court and face financial ruin. Check with your insurance company for details!
Can the CEA help me get my driver’s license back?
No. However, we are able to help you understand the intricacies of “the system” and to provide advice about how and when to approach the MRD, involve your neurologist and expedite the process. Also, if you are having difficulty arranging accommodation with your present employer or need to explore a career change because of the loss of your driver’s license, please contact the office nearest you.