Medical problems and driving

Medical problems and driving

When does the DVLA need to be informed of medical problems, and when should you stay off the road? Read our guide for more information.

Applying for car insurance with medical conditions

    If you search for car insurance through Gocompare.com you'll be asked to declare any DVLA-reportable medical conditions or disabilities, which you must do accurately or you risk breaking the law and invalidating any policy you buy.

    Your results table will reflect the details you enter and you may find your choice restricted and prices higher.

    Many insurers won't quote online if you have medical conditions because they require further information before they're able to quote.

Once you've successfully passed your driving test you're eligible to hold your licence until you're 70, unless:

  • You lose it through a driving conviction
  • Your health affects your driving ability

Some health conditions still allow for a long and fruitful driving life. Others, unfortunately, do not.

It's your duty to keep the DVLA informed of your health, and failure to do so can incur a significant fine.

It's also essential that you inform your car insurance provider so that they're aware of your new driving situation and are able to consider any possible risks it may pose.

We've provided an introductory guide below. Naturally your first port of call should always be your doctor, followed by the government's guide to all health conditions and driving.

Medication

If an individual is on any medication that impairs their alertness levels and/or judgement then their licence will not be valid. The laws on driving under the influence of illegal drugs also apply for prescribed medication.Car

If you're on a prescribed medication that affects your driving ability the health professional should advise you on how long you should stay away from the wheel.

Surgery

The DVLA only need to be informed of any major surgery if it prevents an individual from driving for over three months.

Just like with any medication prescribed, the doctor or health professional should inform a patient of the length of time they should wait before returning to the driving seat.

Sight

With or without glasses, to keep your driving licence you must be able to read a number plate from 20.5m without any difficulty. Technically your 'visual acuity' must be at least 0.5 on the Snellen Scale, which is the row of diminishing letters you see in an optician.

If sight deteriorates - an individual develops cataracts, night blindness or loses sight in one eye - they must inform the DVLA immediately.

The individual will need to arrange a test of their field of vision. Driving with one operational eye is still possible, so long as the sight the individual has with that eye meets the required standard.

Hearing

There are no laws regarding hearing and driving unless you're a commercial driver.

Specialist instructors for deaf learners are available across the country and there are specific tests for deaf people.

Drivers with hearing impairments are taught how to scan the road intelligently to identify early signs of traffic trouble and, most importantly, emergency service vehicles.

Commercial drivers with a hearing loss greater than 40 decibels must undergo regular examinations to ensure they maintain these skills.Beginners' guide to health insurance

Diabetes

A driver may have to inform the DVLA if they develop diabetes, depending on the way that the diabetes is treated and the type of licence held.

If the diabetes is treated with insulin the driver will be issued with a driving licence for one, two or three years, depending on the severity of the condition.

The DVLA does not require notification if the diabetes is managed by tablets/non-insulin-based medicine or diet, unless an episode of hypoglycaemia has been experienced within the last 12 months.

In the case of gestational diabetes that's treated with temporary insulin prescriptions, it's only a matter for the DVLA if the usage continues for over three months.

Epilepsy

The laws regarding epilepsy and driving differ depending on whether the individual suffers from asleep seizures or awake seizures.

If the individual only suffers from asleep seizures they can be issued a licence for up to three years. If they've suffered an awake seizure, or what's known as a breakthrough seizure, the individual needs to inform their doctor and the DVLA immediately.

There are many factors which impact upon seizures, including the medication used to treat them. As a result each case is dealt with individually, but it's possible that a driving licence may be withdrawn until an individual has gone a minimum of six months without a seizure.

Strokes

The DVLA rules on strokes are very similar to those on epilepsy in that each case is dealt with individually.

However, one restriction applies to all stroke victims; they will not be permitted to drive for at least one month after a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack. After that the patient will need to consult a doctor to assess whether they're safe to drive.

Other neurological conditions

There are individual safety standards for driving with all neurological conditions including narcolepsy, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's, traumatic brain injury and aneurysms.

In many cases a one-to-three year licence will be issued, in other cases a licence will be revoked until the individual can show six incident-free months.

A doctor will be able to advise fully and inform the DVLA on the level of a condition.

Cancer

Most cancers do not affect driving and do not require DVLA notification. However, it's the secondary effects of cancers that may have an influence on licence eligibility, such as weakness and lack of focus.

Tumours can also increase the risk of seizures. A doctor can inform on individual circumstances and advise on whether the DVLA need to know about a condition.Driving licence theory test quiz

Heart conditions

Many heart conditions do not involve informing the DVLA. This includes heart failure, heart valve disease and cases of non-debilitating arrhythmia.

Naturally a doctor can advise on a specific condition. In some cases a patient may be advised to stop driving for a period of between one week and six months during recovery.

Examples include not driving for one week after the successful implantation of a pacemaker or successful cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT).

Mental health

In almost all cases the DVLA rate mental health on periods of stability, differing between six and 12 months.

In the case of anxiety and depression, so long as the doctor has confirmed that there are no concentration problems, agitation, behavioural disturbance or suicidal thoughts, the DVLA do not need to be informed.

In the case of more severe anxious states or depressive illnesses then driving should cease and the individual should seek medical advice.

More acute stages of psychosis and chronic schizophrenia are rated on a case-by-case basis and will consider how stable the individual has proved to be and whether the prescribed medication has an effect on driving ability.

Mental health conditions that are more likely to have a long-term effect on the right to a licence include developmental and personality disorders that involve a lack of awareness and impulsivity, including Asperger's, autism, dementia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Physical disabilities

Thanks to advanced technologies and vehicle adaptation it is possible to drive with permanent limb and spinal disabilities, including cases of amputation, cerebral palsy and severe arthritis.

In each case the DVLA will be need to informed of changes to a vehicle and will amend an individual's licence code accordingly.

By Dave Jenkins