An individual may become incapacitated or lose control of their bodily functions due to seizure. The consequences could be severe if such an event occurs while a driver is driving. Driver’s licenses may be suspended by DMVs in many states if the driver has epilepsy or is suffering from seizures. These restrictions are in place for driver safety and the safety of all who share the road with them.
It is possible to have both epilepsy and seizures. However, it is possible to get a driver’s license or maintain driving privileges. This guide will explain how.
What are the driving factors?
Driving while having epilepsy or other seizures-related disorders is a major risk. Losing control of your vehicle can cause serious accidents. This could result in property damage, injury to pedestrians, and possibly even death. An classic study that surveyed nearly 17,000 people found that epilepsy and seizures sufferers are not more likely to cause an incident than the average driver. The risk of serious injury or damage in an accident is 40% higher.
The risk of serious accidents could be increased by taking medication. Operating machinery and vehicles is not recommended, as with most prescription medications. Side effects of seizure medication can cause impairment in driving safety and defensiveness. Side effects of anti-seizure medication that can impair driving are most commonly seen in the beginning.
Driving too soon after suffering seizures can lead to insurance companies flagging a driver as dangerous. Drivers who are more reckless or comfortable with risky behavior will be more likely to cause an incident.
Driving safely when epilepsy is present
Epilepsy does NOT mean that a person cannot drive. It is possible to live a normal lifestyle despite having epilepsy. There are several ways that epilepsy patients can drive safely.
- Notify the DMV about your condition: Every state has its own guidelines regarding drivers with epilepsy. Notifying the DMV about your condition will alert them and provide you with information about possible restrictions.
- You should work closely with your doctor. Your doctor can help you manage your condition and act as your representative in some states if you need to reinstate your license.
- Get your anti-seizure medication. They can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.
- Avoid triggers: Seizure risk could be increased if you drive while stressed or tired . Flashing lights can also cause seizures in some cases. You may be able to drive more during the day.
- Avoid driving in certain situations: To avoid a seizure, it is best to not drive at high speeds or when the sun is shining.
- Keep your auto insurance current. You may consider upgrading to full-coverage car insurance which will cover any damage you cause in the event of an accident.
Auto insurance and epilepsy
It is important to have current car insurance. Car carriers are not allowed to drop you if you have seizures. You may not be eligible to insure your vehicle if your license has been suspended or restricted by DMV. To ensure you are covered, contact your carrier.
Add-ons can be purchased from the top insurance companies to increase your car insurance. To account for more expensive accidents, epileptic drivers should consider full coverage and increasing coverage limits. If you are concerned about higher accident rates, lowering your insurance deductibles could be beneficial. It will be easier to pay a $500 excess than a $1,000 deductible. Lower deductibles can mean higher premiums. Take a look at your financial situation and decide what is best for you.
DMV restrictions are often applied to drivers with epilepsy and seizure disorders. Every state has its own rules and restrictions for drivers who have had a seizure in the past. Each state may place different levels of restrictions. Even if your seizure is not reported to the DMV they might find out. In some states, doctors or hospitals may be required to report patients who have suffered a seizure in their care.
The guidelines for drivers who have had seizures in the past are usually set by the state’s DMV. They might:
- Temporarily suspend your driver’s license for between three and six months on average
- You will need to report to your doctor periodically to monitor your recovery.
- After a specified period, review the case with a Medical Advisory or Medical Review Board.
- Before you allow yourself to drive again, ask for a recommendation from your doctor.
- You may need to take a written, driving, or vision test depending on the severity of your seizures before you can reinstate your driver’s licence.
These guidelines were put in place by states to ensure that epilepsy sufferers don’t have frequent seizures. This could cause serious crashes and/or injure others behind the wheel.
Dr. Jacqueline French is Chief Medical & Innovation Officer at the Epilepsy Fund.
“Laws were written to protect the public safety and to give the privilege to drive to people who are least likely to have an incident.” While seizures can temporarily affect someone’s driving privileges, proper medical care can ensure that they are safe back on the roads after they have proven they have not suffered seizures for a period of several months or years.
Dr. French reminds epilepsy patients that it is the DMV who makes decisions about driving in most states. Notify your state’s DMV if you have epilepsy or any other condition that could increase your chance of seizures. Continue medical treatment and discuss a plan with your doctor to get safely back on the road.