If you drive, one immediate effect of having a seizure is that you have to stop driving. This is true for all types of seizures, and whether you have a diagnosis of epilepsy or not. For many people, this can have a big impact on their life and it may be very difficult or upsetting. You must tell the driving agency - the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Great Britain, or the Driver Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland. You will also have to tell your insurance company.
How the driving regulations apply to you will depend on the type of seizures you have now, the type of seizures you have had previously, and the type of licence you have (Group 1 or Group 2). Specific regulations also apply after a provoked seizure and after an isolated seizure or first unprovoked seizure.
If you have epilepsy and are still having seizures, you may be able to get help with travel costs (see the section on travel).
The driving agencies
The drivng agencies license cars and drivers for driving on public roads. In Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) it is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) . In Northern Ireland it is the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA). If you have a driving licence, by law it is your duty to tell the driving agency about any medical condition that may affect your ability to drive, including epilepsy. This is a condition of holding a driving licence. If you have a driving licence and have a seizure of any kind, in most cases you must stop driving.
You are responsible for telling either the DVLA or DVA and returning your licence to them. The driving regulations cover all epileptic seizures,including seizures where you are conscious; myoclonic seizures; and seizures where you lose consciousness. These regulations apply even if you have only one seizure (an 'isolated seizure’), whether you have a diagnosis of epilepsy or not, and whether you are taking anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) or not.
Epileptic seizures are specifically included in the Road Traffic Act 1988. This means that if you have one or more seizures, by law you must meet certain medical standards in order to have a driving licence.
The DVLA’s ‘Assessing fitness to drive’ sets out the medical standards for driving, advised by expert medical panels, and based on UK and European legislation. Only the driving agencies are able to decide whether or not someone meets the standards to drive.
If you are not sure how these regulations apply to you, please contact the driving agency. You can download the DVLA factsheet for people with epilepsy (INS9) from the DVLA website.
Learning to drive
If you have epilepsy and want to learn to drive, you need to meet the medical standards for the type of seizures you have. You will need to tell the driving agency about your epilepsy and fill in a regular application form.
Awake seizures - seizures that start when you are awake.
Asleep seizures - seizures that happen as you are falling asleep, while you are asleep, or as you are waking up.
Anti-epilepsy drugs - medication for epilepsy, which we call AEDs or ('anti-epileptic drugs')
Permitted seizures - types of seizures where you can drive even if you are still having these seizures, after a pattern has been established over a given period of time.
Isolated seizures - first and single unprovoked seizure in a person who has not had any other unprovoked seizures during the past five years. Also includes more than one seizure if all of the seizures have occurred within a 24 hour period.