Driving and Absence Seizures

Since the end of 8th grade, I've had absence seizures, but I wasn't medically diagnosed until June of this year, and I just finised my Junior year of high school. When I turned 16, I did receive my learner's permit... I don't notice my seizures, but my family does, and from what I've heard, I have never had one while driving. When I snap out of it, I feel confused for a moment, and never once has that happened while driving, because I never felt confused like I normally do. But when I was diagnosed, thinking, since they are infrequent and mild, that I would be able to drive, even after the seizure specialist mentioned the driving with epilepsy law. I was wrong, it applies to me as well. And it totally sucks, being promised that I can use a spare car to drive to school my senior year, planning ahead what time I would leave for school, how I would get there, who I would drive, and then all of a sudden I told that I can't... until after my graduation (that's when the seizure free year would be over)... And to tell some of my close friends and family about it, to hear some say, it's for the safety of yourself, and others as well, made me feel like a complete hazard to the road! We learn in health class, that when you choose not to drink and drive, you will be saving yourself and others as well. I feel it's completely the same! It's been over a month, and I'm having a hard time grasping this... I constantly dwell on it, and I shouldn't be, but it was hard for me to hear...


Re: Driving and Absence Seizures

Hello! I can totally agree with you here, its so frustrating! :( I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2008 when i was 14 and I have absence seizures just like you. I've never been allowed to learn to drive as its 'too risky' and against the law. I can't even apply for a provisional license! I've been on lamotrigine since i was diagnosed and my absences are well controlled, i have around 1 a month and they only last a split second and I'm fine after them. I even carry on what I'm doing when I'm having an absence so no one even notices them anymore, even I can't figure out if it was an absence or just me daydreaming! But the law says that we need to be a year seizure free before learning to drive or in your case, start to drive again. Its awful not being able to drive, I'm 18 and still have to rely on public transport and lifts everywhere. I can understand why they want us to be a year seizure free but I think they should consider the length of the absence and how the individual acts before, during and after the absence and asses whether or not they are fit to drive.

Re: Driving and Absence Seizures

Hi all -- very frustrating, yes.  I was diagnosed 4 years ago, and I went about 8 months without driving, and then they diagnosed me as only having migraines and so I could drive again.  It makes no sense. 

Sarah - I'm interested in what you said about "sometimes I cannot tell if I'm having an absence seizure or just daydreaming" - can you explain that a little more?  I've looked on this website a lot over the past couple of years and just wondering what that's like for you?  I seem to "daydream" a lot... don't know any other way, but it just seems to me like I shouldn't be.... and the day dreams are SO real, sometimes I have to actually sit back and really think about it to find out if it really did happen that way or not... these happen when I'm completely  involved in something or just kicking back relaxing; doesn't matter.

Not driving...yeah, it's for your own safety, and others, but still kind of a blow - anyone coudl have an accident at any time regardless of the timing or circumstances, and if we're only having like one, 4 second seizure a month, we're told we cannot drive.  Hmmm lemme think about all the other distractions a "normal, healthy" driver would have come across their path while driving to the same place we would be???

 Take care! - Kim

Re: Driving and Absence Seizures

Hia Kim!

Just to explain, I've had absences for 4 years and I've stayed on the lamotrigine, just increased my dose here and there..my absences are less frequent than they used to be - from 20 a day to once a month. But now they've also become shorter. A second, or even a split second. I just feel as if I've just blinked and I really can't tell whether its just normal or an actual absence. Stress and tiredness are my triggers so they could happen anytime so even though my medication controls them, they just happen out of the blue. Its hard to explain what they are like now as they are so short, whereas before they'd be quite long and everyone would notice if I had one and I'd be really confused afterwards. Its been so long since i had a long absence that I'm not sure if it is one any more as they are so brief but I do have a fuzzy feeling in my head when it happens so thats what makes me think that it was an absence. What I've noticed recently too is that when I'm in a conversation with someone, I hear some of it but then I forget some of the things that were said..as if my short term memory is affected somehow. Do you experience that too? I hope I've explained a little bit.

 About the driving too, I really think that they should consider an indiviual's circumstance and decide that some people are fit to drive. Like you say, everyone experiences distractions while driving so a split second absence for me isn't too extreme and I've never had a tonic-clonic seizure either so I'm even less of a risk. I just think that they shouldn't set the law in black and white as everyone is different.

 I hope you guys can relate to this! Sarah xx 

Re: Driving and Absence Seizures

Hello everyone- I'd like to start off by thanking all of you for commenting on my thread. It is a truly frustrating situation. I am on medication as well. I forgot what it's called but I think it's mentioned in a comment. I have just increased my dosage to three pills twice a day and I have been taking them on a somewhat strict schedule. It's kind of hard for a teenager in the summer to wake up at two pm and then have to wait until much later on... This was mentioned earlier. That it is hard to tell if they are a daydream or an actual seizure. I can completely relate! I use to have them for not even a second. Now that I'm on medication, I haven't noticed the confusion that I'm at. They've only happened in social situations where my mind is on a hundred different things at once. Like I said in my post, my parents or older sisters have never noticed them while driving. And I'm not saying this because I want to drive, but they should take into account of the severity, frequency, and the cause of the seizures. Ive had a few EEGs and nothing they do in the test triggers them, even the bright flashing light they flash at your face. Thank you all again

Re: Driving and Absence Seizures

I'm so glad you can relate to that, its just too hard to tell which one it is as its so short. When I had my EEG, I was having around 20 absences a day and they picked it up straight away during the scan but if I were to go back and do it again they probably wouldn't be able to trigger them. I'm not photosensitive with the flashing lights which is lucky really. My absences/daydreams always happen when I'm in the middle of doing something when I'm concentrating on several different things at once too! They should definitely take different situations into account.

Re: Driving and Absence Seizures

Thank you both for the great details!  I went to my PCP yesterday, for my annual, and we discussed a new neurologist.  I am going to see a new doctor next month.  I'm kind of excited, if that sounds weird.  Excited to get some answers, I guess, being that nothing's changed - hasn't gotten worse, just hasn't changed since I stopped the meds.  Her and I discussed starting up Topamax again, as that was the only drug that completely helped me, but we decided to wait to see what the new neuro suggests. 

Okay, so the daydreams you both speak about.... see, thought I was going bonkers, just randomly daydreaming while doing something important, and why was this daydream so important - was I really needing a distraction and that's why I would start daydreaming?  And they're SO real, SO detailed, I could not understand "why" they'd just pop into my head.  It's not like I was JD from Scrubs and "wanting" to day dream, you know?  So when you say you can't tell if they're seizures or not, I know that feeling, too.  Not knowing, that's what makes it all the more weird.  When you can't account for what just happened, and did something really happen?  Does this happen to Jane at the next desk from me?  Will she think I'm weird asking?

So we discussed my driving.  And she didn't say either way if I should or shouldn't, as my last diagnosis was "migraine."  I guess this will come up.  Course I only drive in town (we live in a small town) and I do not drive if I feel "off" when I wake in the morning.  I do not go anywhere alone, either, just to be on the safe side.  I heard one time, someone post "anyone ever wonder how they got from one place to the other while driving?  Like the car knew where to go and how to get there but I don't recall driving?" and other people would post - not in a seizure forum, just post that yeah, that's weird when it happens and it like only happened one time for most of these people.  That's like when I'm sitting at my computer, and I don't remember hitting 'update' and then my work's done and I'm thinking I'm still on #3 or whatever. 

What frusturates me most, tho, is that symptoms of migraine and some seizures are the same, and since nothing was caught on my video monitoring, they classified me with the migraines when for 9 months before that, my neuro told me I was having seizures from what I described to them.... how can it change just like that, you know?!

How long have you both been on what drug again?  I can't scroll to find the other posts.... and I cannot remember one of your questions...."does that happen with any of you?" I think is what it was, but don't remember, should have written it down!

Re: Driving and Absence Seizures

I agree it does SUCK!!! I'm 40 now and have had absence sezures  for about 30 years. When I was 19, I went and got my license anyway.. There were times I had a few fender benders, didnt stop me. One night I drove the wrong direction on the highway, didnt stop me. Got lost plenty of times, still didnt stop me.... Anyway, at 34 I had a baby and said I would NEVER drive with him in the car because i would be too paranoid something could happen to him. Kinda selfish of me when you think of it because that means im only thinking about my child and not anyone elses... About a year and half later my sons dad passed away with cancer. Then I didnt know what to do?? I figured I had no choice but to drive with him..Well, wouldnt you know it, the second time i had my son in the car i had a seizure, drove up a rock, and flipped the car completely over.  I havent driven since. Neither one of us was hurt Thank GOD!!!! Im not religious, but i knew that that was his way of telling me that i was going to have to live without driving.  I'll be honest, it can be awful somtimes/alot of times and seem not fair not to be able to just get up and go and get where you want, but you have to think of the way you would feel if God for bid you killed somebodys child in an accident, or how your family would feel if they lost you. So not fair.. Hopefully maybe they'll find the perfect med for you and you can drive in the future.

 Good luck.