How Will it Affect Getting a Driver’s Licence

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What does driving mean to you? To some, driving means freedom and independence – plus it’s what all your friends are doing.

Just because you have epilepsy does not necessarily mean you will never drive, however for some this can be true.

Wherever possible, driving should be encouraged and should always be a goal for anyone with good seizure control, after considering all aspects of their epilepsy.
 
Find out more:

 

Click on the play button to hear Samantha’s experience of not driving.

“Everyone who regularly drives takes it for granted. It is a privilege. Some people think of not driving as a limitation but really it is an opportunity to meet people. I have been able to get jobs and meet people through lifts and public transport. It is not a limitation for me.”

 

To hear Meg talk about medications and wanting to drive click on the video.

Driving and medications

Will I be able to get my driver’s licence?

Yes, in circumstances where you are:

  • Seizure free – seizures are controlled by medication for a specified period of time – it’s a different time period for different circumstances. Speak to your doctor about how long you will have to be seizure free for.
  • Only have seizures during sleep – in most circumstances, you are allowed to get your licence if your seizures are nocturnal. This needs to be confirmed by your doctor.

When you have your licence, it is also important that you:

  • Continue to take anti-epileptic medication regularly as prescribed
  • Ensure you get enough sleep and not drive if sleep-deprived
  • May need to abstain from alcohol and other drugs (seizures may be caused by consumption of alcohol, drugs or non-prescription drugs).

You need to make a real commitment to take your medication every day and on time so you don’t risk having a seizure on the road.

Note: If you are going to wean off a medication or change medications, there are restrictions on driving for a specified period as this is a high risk time for having a seizure.

This is a document about medical standards and driving in Australia. There is a section on epilepsy.
 

Who tells the road transport authorities?

If you are diagnosed with epilepsy or have a seizure, it is your legal responsibility to notify the appropriate road transport authority in your state or territory.

The doctor may notify the authorities if he/she suspects you are driving against advice or not taking your medication as prescribed.
 

I’ve had a couple of seizures but I don’t want to tell my doctor because I’m afraid I’ll lose my licence.

If you’ve had a seizure or two, you need to get your medication reviewed. If you don’t tell the doctor, this isn’t going to happen. So this can seriously affect your seizure management and control. The bigger risk is that you’ll have a seizure while driving. By telling the doctor, you will have your license temporarily suspended, but while it’s tough not being able to drive for a while, you don’t want to risk having a bad accident that hurts you or someone else. There could be possible legal repercussions in this instance.

 

If I lose my licence because of seizures, can I ever get it back?

Yes. Once you have been seizure free again for the regulated period, you can re-apply and get your licence back. Sometimes if a seizure happens in extenuating circumstances, then you may be able to get it back sooner than you think.
 

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 Driving Licence Authorities (DLA) 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 your passengers and the community. There are many safety factors to think about because seizures usually happen without warning.

If you have a motor vehicle accident during the recommended non-driving period you will not be covered by insurance and may have difficulty getting insurance in the future. You could also be charged with driving offences such as dangerous driving or be sued under common law.

While seizure control is critical for anyone’s ability to drive, it is not the only factor in driving assessments. Things that you should take care about and the authorities (in Australia) will look at are:

  • Taking your medications as prescribed and their side effects for you. If your seizures are controlled, you should be able to drive if you can show that you take medications regularly.
  • It is important to have follow-up and close supervision by a neurologist to keep the ability to drive and proactively make medication changes if necessary.
  • Honest and open communication with the neurologist is so important. There are many people that don’t tell their neurologist everything in fear of losing or not getting their licence. This ultimately can lead to poor seizure management or even more dire circumstances if a seizure occurs whilst driving.
  • Any physical, intellectual, behavioural and maturity issues may also be taken into account.

It’s important to remember though that driving is a privilege not a right, and one which can be taken away if the road rules are broken.

As you are approaching the age where you want to get your licence, discuss it with your neurologist to give you the best opportunity to plan ahead. Any changes to medication or management should be done well before attempting to get a driver’s licence.
 
For more information, click on the link and access the Seizure Smart – Driving Factsheet.