Whether or not you have confirmed epilepsy, if you have a seizure at any time you must stop driving and write to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) telling them. This rule applies if
- You experience any epileptic activity however minor it may seem. This includes an aura or warning sign, a brief absence, limb jerks - not just a full tonic-clonic seizure.
- You have a seizure while you are asleep.
- You have a single seizure, whether or not you have a history of epilepsy. Although some people only every have a solitary seizure, there is a possibility that you may have another. You will normally have to surrender your licence for a year.
- The seizure was provoked by a particular one-off event or trigger. The DVLA will deal with such cases on an individual basis.
What happens next?
The DVLA will usually contact your doctor for a medical report or you may have to be examined by one of the agency's nominated medical advisors. The DVLA will then write and tell you if you have to give up your licence and you will be asked to return it. It is a good idea to send it by recorded delivery for proof of posting and to keep a photocopy. Be honest - however disappointed you may feel about the loss of your licence, it is important to be honest and admit that you have had a seizure. Even a minor seizure can affect your ability to drive and put your own safety and that of others at risk.
IMPORTANT: If you continue to drive once a diagnosis of epilepsy has been made you are breaking the law. This means that your licence and any car insurance, including third party cover, are not valid.
Can I appeal?
Yes. Firstly check with your GP as he/she may be able to find out more information for you. You might also like to write to the DVLA's Medical Advisor to arrange a personal interview to explore the reasons for refusing you a licence. You can also appeal to the Magistrate's Court - though if you have been given a firm diagnosis of epilepsy you are unlikely to succeed.
Remember: It is your duty by law to notify the DVLA that you have had a seizure or a diagnosis of epilepsy.
Back in the driving seat
Once your seizures are fully under control you can apply or reapply for your licence so long as:
- You have been free from seizures completely for one year; OR
- You have only experienced sleep sieuzres for a period of three years.
The DVLA must also be satisfied that as a driver you are not likely to be a source of danger to other people on the road.
Getting your licence
If you have already held a UK driving licence, write to the DVLA (including your old licence umber if you know it) saying that you wish to reapply. You will be sent a questionnaire asking when you had your last attack and you will be asked for the name of your doctor who will need to provide a medical report.
If you have not yet passed your test, you will have to complete the application form for a provisional licence (available from post offices), accurately completing the medical statements. Once the DVLA is satisfied that you are fit to drive, you will be issued with a new or provisional licence.
How long is my licence for?
Your licence will normally be issued for three years at at time. However, if you have been seizure free for seven years (one year without a licence and two three year licences) and a doctor can confirm that you have no continuing risk of epilepsy, you can have a long-term (until 70) licence just like anyone else.
Note: These rules apply to standard Group One licences - that is cars and motorcycles. Different rules apply to Group Two (PGV/PCB) licences. Your precise entitlement may vary depending on th exact cause of your seizures. For further information call the Epilepsy Helpline on 0800 30 90 30.
One the road again
The following tips will help ensure a smooth and safe return to driving:
- Book a refresher course with a driving instructor to get used to being back on the road.
- Be aware of any factors that trigger seizures and try to avoid them.
- Make sure you are well rested when you drive. Take regular breaks and do ont drive if you have missed out on sleep or are over-tired.
- Make sure you are adequately insured. BEA has information about insurance schemes for people with epilepsy.