Driving and Independence

Epilepsy News From: Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Community Corner: September 10, 2014

One of the biggest problems for people with epilepsy is the inability to drive when seizures are not controlled.

  • For adolescents, a major “rite of passage” is taken away – getting your driver’s license! This can affect one’s independence, social life, dating, and just feeling “accepted’” by peers.
  • For adults, not driving may make people feel a loss of independence – you can’t go where you want, when you want. As a result, people often report feeling dependent on others to get around, or “stuck” in the house.
  • Jobs may be at risk. Dr. Gregory Krauss talks about commercial driver’s licenses in this week’s Hallway Conversations. Yet, it’s not just about driving for work, it’s about getting to and from work too! If a person can’t get to work and doesn’t have accessible public transportation, what can you do?
  • To learn more about driving and epilepsy, visit www.epilepsy.com

What are the laws about driving for people with seizures/epilepsy?

  • In the United States, people must be seizure free for a period of time before they can drive. The length of time seizure free varies from state to state. It may range 3 months to 2 years and is most commonly 6 months.
  • In most states, the person with seizures is required to report to the registry of motor vehicles if they have seizures.
  • Some states have mandatory reporting laws. This requires health care professionals to report someone who has had a seizure to the registry of motor vehicles.
  • See our Driving Laws Database for details about your state.

If I have a driver’s license and my seizures are controlled, do I need to tell the registry about my epilepsy?

  • When a person applies for a license or has to renew one, applications usually ask if a person has ever had seizures, episodes with loss of consciousness or a medical condition that could affect their ability to drive. If you answer no (when in truth you have epilepsy) and sign the form, you could have an invalid driver’s license as you knowingly were not truthful on the application. This could have legal and financial consequences as auto insurance is based upon having a valid driver’s license.
  • If you answered yes and signed the form, the registry likely will ask that your doctor send a letter or complete a form with medical information about you and the seizures/epilepsy. If you meet the state requirements for driving, you will then get a driver’s license.
  • The registry may ask for periodic letters or forms from your doctor to make sure you still meet the requirements to drive. In some situations, this documentation may only be needed when you renew a license.

If I can’t drive, how can I get around?

  • People who live in urban areas are usually able to get around by public transportation using subways, buses, trains, or taxis.
  • Many cities and towns have “paratransit” services for people who can not use the typical public transportation or when buses or trains are not available.
  • People who live in more rural areas may have greater difficulties finding accessible transportation or paratransit services.
  • Other options to consider:
    • Ask family or friends for rides - offering to pay for gas or help them in other ways may help this arrangement work better for everyone.
    • Call 2-1-1 where available, your town hall, council on aging or senior citizen groups. They often have vans that can take people to appointments or stores for errands.
    • Check with your local Epilepsy Foundation affiliate, local churches, the Red Cross, or other nonprofit groups in your area. Many have lists of resources or offer volunteers to help people with transportation.
  • For more information about transportation resources.

Not driving is certainly not easy and can disrupt and change people’s lives in many ways. However, don’t forget the safety reasons why people who are having seizures should not drive. Seizures are unpredictable and can happen anywhere at any time, even when you are driving. People who have a seizure while driving could get hurt or die. The same could happen to a pedestrian or person in another car if they are hit during an accident. Please don’t let this happen to you or your loved one.

Stay safe!

Best wishes,

Patricia Osborne Shafer, RN, MN
Associate Editor/Community Manager

Reviewed Date

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

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