When driving, you need to use many skills to control your vehicle, whilst being aware of what's happening around at all times, to be safe – it’s a complicated task. For this reason, there are many medical conditions that can influence your ability to drive.
GOV.UK have a list of conditions online, that might affect your ability to drive. These conditions are divided into 8 categories:
In this article, we will talk about some of the most common conditions that you need to inform the DVLA about, and in the context of Group 1 licences (cars and motorcycles). Group 1 licences require ‘medical self-declaration’ of medical conditions – meaning that if you have or develop one of these conditions, you have a legal responsibility to tell the DVLA as soon as possible. If you don’t, you could face a £1,000 and be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident.
The law states that to drive you must meet the minimum eyesight requirements. This means that you must be able to read the registration plate of another vehicle from 20 metres away whilst in good daylight (with contact lenses or glasses, if you wear them).
This is how well you can see detail and is measured with eye charts of letters, which get smaller with each row – it’s called a Snellen scale and results are given per eye with two numbers. To be able to drive, you will need to have a Snellen score of at least 6/12, meaning that you can see at 6 metres what can normally be seen at 12 metres with normal vision (with contact lenses or glasses, if you wear them).
The DVLA also states that your minimum field of vision (the the breadth of your central and peripheral/side vision) should be 120 degrees. This test is normally done by you focusing on one point with small lights being turned on and off in your peripheral vision, and you counting how many you saw.
Hypoglycemia is the greatest risk to safe driving if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. If you are diagnosed with this condition, the DVLA will send you some detailed information about your licence and driving.
You must tell the DVLA if you:
If you are a diabetic, you will need to show that you are able to monitor and control your blood glucose levels sufficiently. You should be able to recognise the symptoms of hypoglycemia and carry a form of rapidly absorbed sugar with you in your vehicle in case you experience any symptoms.
There are only a handful of treated cardiovascular conditions that you need to notify the DVLA about:
Although you do not need to inform the DVLA, there are several conditions when they suggest you should not drive for a short time:
You must not drive for one week after
You must not drive for four weeks after:
You should not drive at all if:
If you experience a seizure for the first time, you shouldn’t drive for at least 6 months because you might be at risk of a ‘sudden disabling event’ when you’re behind the wheel. Once you have had a proper medical examination, the DVLA will decide if this time period should be increased.
Similarly, if you have had epilepsy for a while, you shouldn’t drive for at least one year after you have experienced a seizure. If you have been seizure-free for one year, then you should be able to get another licence that you’ll need to renew every three years. If you’ve been seizure-free for five years, then you should be able to get a standard until 70 years licence.
In England, Scotland and Wales, if you change your anti-epileptic medication, the DVLA do not need to be notified, but they advise you to not drive for 6 months. However, if you live in Northern Ireland, you must tell the DVA and you must stop driving for 6 months.
Anyone who suffers a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or cerebrovascular event should not drive for at least one month – if your doctor notes that, after one month, there is still neurological damage, you will need to inform the DVLA of this. If you experience several TIA events, then you should not drive until been attack-free for at least three months.
Once Parkinson’s disease or dementia has been diagnosed, the DVLA should be told immediately. At the time when Parkinson’s disease causes movement to become sufficiently impaired, the patient’s licence will be revoked. Patients with dementia should only drive if their condition is mild. These conditions will require regular assessment from a health professional to decide if you are still fit to drive.
Just because you are enjoying the later years of life, does not mean you are at risk of losing your licence - the DVLA does not consider age alone as something that should restrict your ability to hold driving licence. So if you have no medical disability or impairment, you can keep your licence. When you reach 70 years of age, you will need to renew your licence and complete a medical questionnaire every three years to make sure that you can still drive safely.
Being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of a substance that affects your ability to drive safely, is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 – this applies to legal and illegal substances, as well as alcohol. So you should not drive if you are taking any medication that says you should not drive whilst taking it (this can include some painkillers and antibiotics).
There are several other conditions that make it illegal to drive:
If you've been issued a short term medical driving licence because of your medical condition, the DVLA will contact you 90 days before your licence expires. You should check with your doctor (or other health professional) that you are still fit to drive before you renew your licence. If you've been given the all clear, you can now renew your licence simply and safely online with GOV.UK Verify.
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