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driving regulations for epilepsy

Some of the driving regulations for epilepsy changed in March 2013. Information about these is given below. You can also read our summary of the changes.

Follow our interactive guide to see at a glance what the driving regulations mean for you.

What the regulations say

According to the DVLA, for Group 1 licences, epilepsy is defined as two or more seizures within five years. For Group 2 licences, epilepsy is defined as two or more seizures within 10 years. The driving regulations are different if you have had a first, single ‘isolated seizure’. See our page on DVLA terminology for the definitions used by the DVLA.

Group 1 licences

This group includes cars, motorcycles and mopeds. To drive, you must meet all normal driving requirements and must have been completely free of seizures for one year, with or without taking anti-epileptic drugs.

The regulations are different:

  • if your seizures have never affected your consciousness or ability to control a vehicle
  • if you have only ever had asleep seizures.

Group 2 licences

This group includes large goods vehicles (LGV or lorries), passenger carrying vehicles (PCV or buses and minibuses with nine seats or more) and horse boxes. You must meet all normal driving requirements and must have been seizure-free, without taking anti-epileptic drugs, for the last 10 years. The DVLA will also need to be satisfied that you are not likely to have any more seizures.

Taxi drivers

Many local authorities apply the regulations for Group 2 licences to driving a taxi. However, each local authority decides on its own standards for driving.

Contact your local council (opens new window) for details.

Awake seizures that do not affect consciousness or the ability to control a vehicle

For some types of awake seizures, you may be able to apply for a new Group 1 licence (opens new window) after one year of not driving, even if you are still having seizures. This is only the case if all of the following apply to you:

  • you stay fully conscious during your seizures
  • you would be able to act, react and control a vehicle normally during the seizure
  • you have only these types of seizures and no other type
  • you have never had a seizure that affects your consciousness or your ability to control a vehicle.

If you have or have ever had other types of seizures which affect your ability to control a vehicle – for example, where you become confused, feel numb or weak, or are unable to remember what has happened, these regulations will not apply to you. See Group 1 licences above.

Asleep seizures

‘Asleep seizures’ (sometimes called ‘nocturnal seizures’) are seizures that start while you are sleeping, while you are falling asleep, or as you are waking up. The term ‘asleep seizures’ can apply at night or if you sleep in the daytime as part of your normal routine.

If you have an asleep seizure, you must stop driving for one year and contact the DVLA. If you are then seizure-free for one year, you can apply for a new Group 1 licence (opens new window), as you can for ‘awake seizures’.

If you have had only asleep seizures over a period of three years since your last awake seizure, you can apply for a new Group 1 licence to drive, even if your asleep seizures continue. It is important that this pattern of only asleep seizures is seen over at least three years. You will still need to tell the DVLA and your insurance company about your seizures.

If you have only ever had asleep seizures (and have never had an awake seizure), then once this pattern of only asleep seizures has been established for one year, you can apply for a new Group 1 licence to drive, even if your asleep seizures continue. This will no longer apply if you have an awake seizure in future.

If you then have an awake seizure, you will need to stop driving for one year from the date of your last awake seizure. If you remain seizure-free for one year, you can then apply for a new Group 1 licence.

Breakthrough seizures

Breakthrough seizures are seizures that happen when someone’s epilepsy has otherwise been fully controlled (and they have not been having seizures). If you are seizure-free and have a driving licence, and you have a breakthrough seizure, you will have to stop driving and tell the DVLA (opens new window).

Stopping or changing your medication

If you stop taking your anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), there is a risk that your seizures will start again. If you and your doctor decide that you can stop taking (withdraw) your AEDs, your doctor may advise you to stop driving while you are coming off your AEDs and for six months after you have stopped your AEDs.

During this time, if you have a seizure, you will need to stop driving and tell the DVLA. If you then go back on to the same medication and remain seizure-free for six months, you can apply for a new licence. This also applies if you have a seizure during changes to your medication that have been agreed with your doctor.

An exception to this is if you have an awake seizure that does not affect your consciousness or ability to drive or an asleep seizure. You will still need to tell the DVLA about the seizure, but you may still be allowed to drive and not lose your licence, depending on the type of seizures that you have had previously.

Non-epileptic seizures

If you have a non-epileptic seizure, you will need to stop driving and tell the DVLA. If your seizures then become controlled, and your doctors and the DVLA are satisfied that you are unlikely to have another seizure, you may be able to apply for a new Group 1 licence. For more information, contact the DVLA (opens new window).

Isolated seizures

There are specific DVLA driving regulations for people after an isolated epileptic seizure. The DVLA’s definition of an isolated seizure is a first and single seizure with no history of seizures, or a number of seizures within a 24 hour period that are the person’s first ever seizures.

Isolated seizure: Group 1 licence

You must stop driving for six months from the date of the seizure, and tell the DVLA. You may be allowed to start driving again after six months if you have had no further seizures and there are no clinical factors (such as a scar on the brain) or results from investigations (such as an EEG) which suggest a high risk of you having another seizure.

Isolated seizure: Group 2 licence

You must stop driving for five years from the date of the seizure, and tell the DVLA. You may be allowed to start driving again after five years if there are no clinical factors (such as a scar on the brain) or results from investigations (such as an EEG) which suggest a high risk of you having another seizure.

You must not have been prescribed anti-epileptic drugs during the five years before applying for your licence. If you feel that these regulations apply to you, you can talk to your specialist or call the DVLA’s drivers medical enquiries number on 0300 790 6807.

Note: these regulations only apply to people who have had a first and single seizure. They do not apply to people diagnosed with epilepsy.

Exceptional circumstances

If someone with no history of seizures has a seizure caused, or ‘provoked’, by something that is unlikely to happen again, this may be an ‘exceptional circumstance’. This might include a seizure happening immediately at the time of a head injury or a stroke. The DVLA looks at these circumstances on an individual basis.

Seizures caused by alcohol or drug misuse, sleep deprivation, stopping or changing medication, or the side effects of medication are not usually considered provoked. If your first and only seizure was caused by alcohol or drug misuse, you will also need to meet the driving standards for alcohol problems (opens new window) or drug misuse (opens new window).

Vehicles which need no licence

Forklift trucks, farm vehicles and sit-on lawn mowers

The DVLA regulations cover vehicles that are driven on public highways, not vehicles that are used on private land. A driving licence is not needed for the following vehicles as long as they are only being driven on private land and not on public roads:

  • forklift trucks
  • farm vehicles (such as tractors and quad bikes)
  • sit-on lawn mowers.

Employers need to consider health and safety regulations if someone drives these vehicles on private land as part of their job. The Health and Safety Executive advises standards for driving these vehicles that are similar to car and LGV standards, depending on the vehicle’s size and weight.

If these vehicles are driven on public highways then a driving licence would be needed. Contact the Health and Safety Executive (opens new window) on 0845 345 0055.

Electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters

Electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters are not considered to be ‘vehicles’, so you do not need a driving licence to use them, whether they are used on public or private land. However, wheelchairs or mobility scooters that are ‘class 3 invalid carriages’ can be used on the road, and need to be registered with the DVLA (opens new window).

People coming to the UK from abroad

If you are coming to the UK and need to apply, or reapply, for a UK licence, then the regulations on this page will apply to you.

Taken from our Driving and travel leaflet. Order this leaflet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer.

We are grateful to the DVLA for its guidance on the driving regulations information.

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