In most cases a person with epilepsy can drive provided they have been free of seizures for one year and are certified fit to drive by a doctor. There are exceptions to the one year rule regarding first unprovoked seizures, sleep seizures, provoked seizures and seizures with awareness. These exceptions can mean either a reduced seizure freedom period or permission to continue driving. In certain cases a neurological opinion is needed. Under the guidelines issued to doctors from the Road Safety Authority regarding Driver Licencing and Medical Conditions, drivers are required to notify the RSA when any condition develops or recurs.
When you develop epilepsy your doctor will advise you about the driving regulations. The Irish driving standards are contained in Slainte agus Tiomaint, Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines
What do these regulations say?
For most people with epilepsy they have to be free of seizures for one year before they are eligible to drive a car, light van, or motorcycle/moped, tractor or other work vehicle. These are Group 1 licences categories (A, A1, B, EB, M and W). When the seizure freedom period has been reached, a completed D501 form from a doctor confirming this will be needed. A person with epilepsy will be kept under annual review by their doctor until they are five years seizure free.
Group 2 licences (Categories C and D) are for large vans, and heavy goods vehicles such as lorries and buses. Different rules apply to these licence categories because of the responsibility of driving passengers, load and the size and weight of the vehicle. Someone with a history of epilepsy may be licensed in Group 2 categories if they are 10 years seizure free without use of medication. In first unprovoked seizures this may be reduced to 5 years seizure free without use of medication. Provoked seizures will be subject to neurological opinion. Medical checks for group 2 licenses are very strict.
It’s my first seizure, do these rules apply?
Not everyone is diagnosed with epilepsy on their first seizure. Many people have one seizure and never have another. The law takes account of this by reducing the period off the road. If you have a first unprovoked seizure you may drive once your consultant is satisfied you are medically fit. This is individually assessed and is for a minimum of 6 months for Group 1 drivers (cars, light van, work vehicles) and 5 years for Group 2 (lorries, buses, HGV’s).
Are there any exceptions to the one year rule for Group 1 drivers?
Yes. There are some exceptions for certain Group 1 drivers and a consultant opinion may be required.
Sleep seizures: May drive if this pattern is established for at least 12 months
Seizures with consciousness: May drive if pattern is established for at least 12 months.
Withdrawal of medication: For seizures that occur as a result of a doctor having directed the withdrawal of your medication, you are advised not to drive from start of withdrawal of treatment and for 6 months after treatment has stopped, or as directed by your consultant or doctor.
Provoked seizures: You must stop driving until your doctor is satisfied that you are medically fit to drive again. A provoked seizure has a known cause and is unlikely to be repeated. Seizures in this category can occur where there is no history of epilepsy in certain situations:
- During pregnancy
- Due to lack of oxygen
- During a stroke or in the 24 hours following it
- During brain surgery or in the 24 hours following it
- In the first week after a head injury
Seizures due to alcohol, lack of sleep, drug misuse, or structural brain problems are not considered provoked.
What if I have a breakthrough seizure?
Breakthrough seizures in controlled epilepsy need a specialist report on the period of time off the road. If you are unsure what regulation applies to you, your doctor can explain this to you. You must comply with your doctor’s guidance on driving.
Do I need to declare epilepsy for licensing?
Yes. Any new diagnosis of epilepsy, or breakthrough of seizures in existing epilepsy, should be declared to the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS). If, following an assessment, your doctor gives you a Patient Advisory Form stating that you need to advise the driving authority of your condition then under the guidelines you have a responsibility to do this.
Applying for a licence
You need to submit 2 forms in person to any NDLS centre. These are a) the Driving Licence Application and b) a Medical Report Form (D501). The D501 must have been completed by your doctor within the previous month. You also need to take proof of your PPS number and your current licence, if any.
Informing the NDLS
You must notify the NDLS when:
1. Your epilepsy needs to be noted on your driver record (without changing your licensing entitlement).
2. Your licence needs to be changed (for example for a shorter period)
Am I legally obliged to stop driving if my doctor tells me to?
Yes. You need to be guided by your doctor on this. To continue driving if advised not to is dangerous and against the law.
Can my doctor report me if I keep driving?
The medical guidelines give doctors responsibility to report people who continue driving against medical advice.
Does my licence need to get re-issued?
Under the medical guidelines there are recommendations for re-issuing of licences. In most cases of people with epilepsy who are eligible to drive, it will normally be a 1-3 year licence that is re-issued up to 5 years seizure freedom.
Can I get a ten year licence again?
The medical guidelines state that when five years seizure freedom has been reached then a ten year licence may be issued.
Will I have to do my driving test again?
Provided your driving licence hasn’t lapsed for more than 10 years you should not have to re-take your driving test.
Do I need to tell the car insurance company?
Yes. You must declare epilepsy to your car insurance company. There are more risks to not disclosing than to disclosing. Your policy could be cancelled if you withhold the information and it could be harder to get cover after that.
Is there a particular company to contact?
There is no one particular company we can suggest. Often it’s best to remain with your previous insurer but it is often worthwhile to shop around for a more competitive quote.
Will my insurance be high when I drive again?
People often expect that insurance cover will be difficult to obtain or very high. In practice this is not necessarily the case. Insurance Ireland can advise you, contact 01-6761914 or see www.insuranceireland.eu