Losing your driver’s license can have a significant impact on your life, particularly employment and independence.
It is important to remember that the initial suspension of your licence may be for a relatively short period and, once you meet the criteria to be able to drive, you will be able to drive again - safely and legally.
Sudden loss of consciousness that may be experienced by an individual suffering from epilepsy, clearly impairs the ability to control a vehicle. The guidelines concerning seizures and driving may seem severe but reported estimates of the risk of epilepsy related crashes vary between 0.03% and 0.3%.
It would seem that drivers with epilepsy are involved in crashes at about 1.8 times the normal frequency while males <25 years are 7 times the normal frequency.
Correct diagnosis of your seizure type is extremely important. It means appropriate management is commenced, and assessment for driving safely can be considered.
Any person experiencing a seizure or recurrent seizures should see an appropriate consultant for evaluation, so the risk of further seizures and the need for treatment can be determined.
Individual responsibility means personal accountability for management of your condition in conjunction with the support of a medical practitioner.
Where non-compliance with medication is suspected your doctor may notify the Driver Licensing Authority who may then choose to issue a driver licence conditional upon periodic drug level monitoring.
It is a legal requirement for the person with epilepsy to notify the Driver Licensing Authority in their state or territory.
The following aspects of epilepsy management should be taken into account in the assessment of driver fitness:
- You must have been free of seizures for the specified period (see Medical Standards below)
- You must continue to take anti-epileptic medication regularly when prescribed
- You should ensure adequate sleep and not drive if sleep-deprived
- You may need to abstain from alcohol and other drugs (it has been found that a repeated episode of seizure may be precipitated by consumption of alcohol or drugs not under prescription for epilepsy).
Frequently asked questions
Who tells the road transport authorities?
When someone is diagnosed with epilepsy or experiences a seizure, it is the legal responsibility of the licence holder to notify the appropriate road transport authority in their state or territory.
The doctor may notify the authorities if he/she suspects a person is driving or not taking their medication as prescribed.
Can I keep my license?
This depends on the circumstances of the seizure and the diagnosis. Not all seizures or seizure types will pose a risk to driving. You may be able to retain your licence card for identification purposes and to use when you are safe to drive again.
Who makes the rules about whether or not you are well enough to drive?
The rules about health and driving are developed by medical experts and are agreed by DLA’s nationally. Your doctor or specialist does not make the rules but provides advice, based on the standards, about how your epilepsy might affect your ability to drive safely and how it might be managed.
The DLA will consider the advice of your doctor, but always makes the final decision about your licence status.
What if I don’t tell the authorities?
Driving against medical advice is illegal and dangerous to yourself, passengers and the community. There are many safety factors to consider as seizures can often occur without warning.
A person who has an motor vehicle accident during the recommended non-driving period will not be covered by insurance and may have difficulty obtaining insurance in the future. They could also be charged with driving offences such as dangerous driving or be sued under common law.
Can I get any travel assistance?
There are taxi subsidies available and Centrelink offers a mobility allowance. Both forms of assistance have strict criteria that have to be met before they are approved. Not all people are suitable for these forms of assistance.
It is best to contact your local Centrelink office or taxi subsidy scheme.
Some other tips:
- Car pooling with work colleagues
- Having a friend or partner give you a lift
- Public transport
Assessing Fitness to Drive 2006. Austroads disclaimer - Austroads believes this publication to be correct at time of printing and accepts no responsibility for an consequences arising from the use of information herein. Readers should rely on their own skill and judgement to apply information to particular issues.
Factors to be considered will include response to therapy, previous frequency of seizures, EEG findings and the type of epilepsy.
Consideration can also be given to those who have been seizure-free for prolonged periods without medication.
To find out more about how fitness to drive is assessed visit the Austroads website: http://www.austroads.com.au/assessing-fitness-to-drive/assessing-fitness-to-drive