Medical problems and driving

Some medical conditions affect your driving ability. You might need to report them to the DVLA and declare them on your car insurance.

Amanda Bathory-Griffiths

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The basics

Certain medical conditions affect your driving, so you need to tell the DVLA about them.

If the DVLA places restrictions on your driving licence because of a medical condition, you’ll need to declare the restrictions to your car insurance provider.

Key points

  • Medical conditions can make it harder to get car insurance quotes, but they won’t affect the price unless your insurer can prove your condition makes you a higher risk
  • You must declare certain conditions to the DVLA and your insurer, or you’ll invalidate your cover

Medical conditions and your car insurance

When you buy car insurance, you'll be asked if you have any DVLA-reportable medical conditions or disabilities.

If you do, you’ll have to say what sort of restrictions you have on your licence.

Unfortunately, some insurers won’t be able to give you a quote online without having more details about you and your medical conditions. As there’s less choice you might find you get higher quotes than someone without restrictions on their licence.

Insurers can’t discriminate against you unfairly and charge more for your policy, unless they can prove that your condition makes you a higher risk on the road.

Don’t wait until renewal to tell your insurer that your licence has been restricted - you need to let them know straight away.

If you don’t, you’ll invalidate your insurance, so if you try and make a claim it’ll be rejected.

Telling the DVLA about medical conditions

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

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

To hold a UK driving licence, you must be medically fit to drive a car.

If your health worsens, or you develop a condition that affects your driving, you must see a doctor and inform the DVLA.

If your condition compromises your ability to drive for three months or more, you’ll be asked to surrender your licence.

You can apply for it to be reinstated again if you recover enough to meet the medical standard for driving again.

If you continue to drive, have an accident and get caught you can be fined up to £1,000. You might even be prosecuted.

What conditions does the DVLA need to know about?

If you’re unsure whether your condition needs to be declared, the government has a guide to all health conditions and driving.

It’ll tell you whether you need to declare your specific medical conditions or not.

Medical conditions that affect driving

There’s a huge list of conditions that can affect your entitlement to drive, but these are some of the most common:

Medication

Driving under the influence of drugs is illegal, and those laws also apply to prescribed medication.

If medication impairs your judgement and alertness levels, your licence isn’t valid.

If you're on a prescribed medication that’ll affect your driving, your doctor will tell you how long you should stay off the road.

Surgery

You only need to tell the DVLA about major surgery if it stops you driving for three months or longer.

You doctor will tell you how long to wait before you can drive again.

Sight

You must be able to read a number plate from 20m without any difficulty.

If your sight deteriorates and you don’t meet the standard for driving, (for instance, severe cataracts, night blindness, or you lose sight in one eye), you must inform the DVLA immediately.

Driving with one eye is safe and legal, so long as the sight in that eye meets the required standard.

Hearing

There are no laws regarding hearing and driving unless you drive for a living, for example truck drivers.

Commercial drivers with a hearing loss greater than 40 decibels must undergo regular examinations.

Diabetes

If your diabetes is treated with insulin, the DVLA will issue your driving licence for one, two or three years, depending on the severity of your condition.

You don’t need to notify the DVLA if the diabetes is managed by a non-insulin-based medicine, or diet, unless you’ve had a hypoglycaemic episode in the last 12 months.

For gestational diabetes treated with temporary insulin, you only need to tell the DVLA if you have to take insulin for longer than three months.

Epilepsy

The laws about driving with epilepsy differ if you have asleep or awake seizures. Each case is dealt with individually based on treatment and medications.

If you've had seizures while you were asleep longer than 12 months ago, you can still hold a driving licence following a DVLA assessment. You mustn’t drive until you have confirmation.

If you have seizures when you’re awake and black out, you will have to surrender your licence. You can reapply for the licence if you haven’t had another seizure after 12 months.

It’s slightly different if your seizure follows a change in medication - the DVLA will reconsider your licence after six months.

Your driving licence may be withdrawn until six months has passed without a seizure.

Stroke

You’re not allowed drive for at least one month after a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (‘mini stroke’).

After that you must ask a doctor to assess whether you'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, two or three-year licence will be issued.

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

Cancer

Most cancers won’t affect driving, so you won’t need to notify the DVLA.

However, if you develop problems with your nervous system or brain a cancer diagnosis can change your eligibility to hold a driving licence.

Your doctor will tell you if the DVLA needs to know about a cancer diagnosis.

Heart conditions

There are lots of heart conditions you don’t need to tell the DVLA about, such as heart failure, heart valve disease and cases of non-debilitating arrhythmia.

A doctor will advise you about your specific condition, but in some cases, you’ll be asked to stop driving for between one week and six months during recovery.

For example, not driving for one week after having a pacemaker fitted or successful cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT).

Mental health

You licence will be suspended if your mental health affects your driving.

Severe anxiety may impair your memory and concentration, leaving you at risk on the road. After a period of stability, and a medical assessment, your licence can be returned.

Your fitness to drive will depend on the severity of your condition and any medication your doctor has prescribed.

Physical disabilities

It's possible to drive with permanent limb and spinal disabilities, including amputation, cerebral palsy and severe arthritis.

You’ll need to tell the DVLA about any adaptations your car needs so they can amend your licence code.

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