Seizures and Driving

Home » Seizures and Driving
November 30, 2012
Edward Smith

People with epilepsy, which entails seizures that are unpredictable, have had restrictions placed on several areas of their lives including the ability to participate in certain recreational activities, ability to sustain social relationships, employment restrictions, and in driving ability. Because those with seizures can have them at any time, they cannot drive under most situations. In some states, doctors must inform the legal system if they have a new onset person with seizures so that the person’s license can be revoked.

Patients with seizures must weigh the risks versus the benefits of participating in sports and other recreational activities so that they can know the hazards they face should they decide to participate in activities like swimming, tennis and running exercises. Each person is unique and has a unique seizure pattern. Some people have such rare seizures and are taking appropriate medication so that they can perhaps participate in certain recreational activities without any significant risk. Some activities, like driving, are restricted by law so it isn’t up to the doctor or the patient to make the decision as to whether or not the person may participate in the activity.

There are laws in all fifty states that restrict the driver’s license for people who have active seizures that aren’t taken care of by anti-seizure medication. The states establish when and under what circumstances a license may be acquired by a person with a seizure disorder. In general, the individual must have been free of seizures for a specific period of time, usually six months, before they can receive a driver’s license. Some states allow only a three month seizure-free period of time. A physician must sign a statement saying the person has been seizure-free and that they are compliant with their medications before the license can be instated. The physician must state whether or not he or she presents an unreasonable risk to the safety of the public.

It is, of course, the laws of the state you live in and not the doctor who can say the individual has a right to drive. Before the individual can get a license, their doctor must provide proof that the patient is taking his or her medications and that seizures are under control. Some anti-seizure drugs will make a person tired and this must be addressed by the doctor as well.

If a person has been seizure free for an entire year, their risk of injury to the public is extremely low. The closer the time between the last seizure and the present time, the greater is the risk to the public. Some people have an aura, which is a sign of an impending seizure and they have them all the time before their seizures. These individuals have time to pull over and stop the car before their seizure happens. These people are even safer to drive on the road with a seizure disorder. People who, on the other hand, miss taking their medications, even for a single dose, have a higher risk of having a seizure while driving. This is something that cannot happen with seizure patients.

Six states currently require doctors to report when their patient who has a driver’s license has a seizure. There is civil litigation to any doctor who fails to report a seizing patient if the patient subsequently has a seizure on the road and injures or kills another person as a result.