Losing your driver’s license can have a huge impact on your life, particularly aspects such as employment, getting to and from work, maintaining social contact and accessing everyday needs.
It is important to remember that the initial suspension of your license may not be permanent and, if you meet the criteria to be able to drive, you will be able to drive again – safely and legally.
Sudden loss of consciousness that can happen during a seizure clearly impairs the ability to control a vehicle. The guidelines concerning seizures and driving may seem severe a tragic accident can have much more severe consequences.
It would seem that drivers with epilepsy are involved in crashes almost twice as often, while males under 25 years are 7 times more likely to crash.
There are some seizure types that do not affect driving ability – as long as the person takes their medication as prescribed.
Getting the right diagnosis of your seizure type is important. It means the right management is started, and review for driving safely can be clarified. Any person who has seizures should see a neurologist so the risk of further seizures and the need for treatment can be decided.
If you are told by the doctor you cannot drive, it is your legal responsibility to notify the Driver Licensing Authority (DLA) in your state or territory. You will also need to be responsible for your treatment by continuing medications to manage the seizures; otherwise your license will not be renewed or will be revoked.
To get your license back:
- You must have been free of seizures for the specified period (see Medical Standards below)
- You must continue to take antiepileptic 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 has a seizure, it is the legal responsibility of that person 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. So sometimes a person is able to keep their license and continue to drive (for instance if your seizures are only during sleep). If you lose your license, you may be able to keep 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 you, passengers and the community. There are many safety factors to consider as seizures can often occur without warning.
A person who has a 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 in your state.
Some other tips:
- Car-pooling – ask for a lift from family, friends or colleagues
- Public transport – catch the bus, tram, train or ferry
- Ride a bike (if safe)
- Investigate travel subsidies
For more information:
To find out more about how fitness to drive is assessed visit the Austroads website.