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Epilepsy and Driving

What is epilepsy?

There are many types of epilepsy. Generally, you may had more than one seizure (fit or turn). Seizures may result in involuntary and uncontrolled movements and a change in your state of consciousness.

Can a person with epilepsy drive?
  Anyone who has recently had even one seizure should seek clearance from doctor before driving. A single seizure doesn't necessarily mean someone has epilepsy, but there may be some other safety reason not to drive.

What is controlled epilepsy?

No seizures. Once suitable treatment has been given (usually regular medication) a stage may be reached where the epilepsy seems controlled and there has been no seizure for a substantial time. Normally this period is 12 months, but under certain circumstances this may be reviewed in consultation with a neurologist and your general practitioner, and may be reduced to six months. When a person's epilepsy is uncontrolled, medical advice must always be obtained to establish when it will be safe for you to resume driving.

What is sleep epilepsy?

A person whose seizures (fits, turns) have always (at least for three years) occurred only during sleep should be able to drive a private vehicle even if these sleep seizures continue.

What is uncontrolled epilepsy?

Epilepsy is considered "uncontrolled" when: there have been seizures (fits, turns) in the last 12 months or the treatment has changed in the last three-six months.

 What about fits in a patient with head injury?

Anyone with head injuries severe enough to have caused unconsciousness or loss of memory and tumors of the brain, may develop epilepsy. In these circumstances they must stop driving until they have consulted a neurologist about their fitness to resume.

What are the precautions while driving?

Once you are able to drive again, there are some important things to do/know:
1.  If your work is going to involve driving, also tell your employer of your condition.
2. Don't drive sooner than 12 hours after even one drink of alcohol. There is a danger period following alcohol consumption, which is greatest when the blood alcohol level has fallen to near zero. So, if alcohol has been taken, you should not drive for 12-24 hours following even moderate alcohol consumption, or longer if greater amounts have been taken.
3. When you change or stop your medication suddenly, stop driving until a doctor advises you are safe.
4. If you have a seizure (fit or turn) for the first time in years, stop driving and consult your doctor. The same applies to those with sleep epilepsy who suddenly have a seizure (fit, turn) while awake.
5.You are more likely to have a seizure (fit, turn) when overtired or ill.

What are the acceptable guidelines?

If you have epilepsy, you can hold a driver license or learner permit as long as your seizures are well controlled. Guidelines for commercial truck, taxi and bus licenses are stricter than those for private licenses. In most cases, if you have had any form of epileptic seizure (apart from some childhood seizures), you will not be permitted to drive commercial vehicles.
The period that you must be free from seizures before driving depends upon your type of epilepsy and the circumstances surrounding the seizure.

Single seizure on withdrawal of medication on medical advice  1 month
Seizure due to sleep deprivation;                                               Generalised epilepsy syndromes;
Seizure following illness or other health problems
3 months
Isolated seizure(s);
Recent diagnosis;
Partial epilepsy syndromes
3-6 months
Any seizure while driving;
Temporal lobectomy;
Sleep epilepsy (seizure during normal waking periods)
1 year
Non compliant patients;
chronic epilepsy
 2 years

Under some circumstances a restricted license may be possible. e.g. a person with nocturnal seizures may be granted a license to drive during daylight hours only. In every case, individual circumstances apply.

Can driving on Antihistamines be risky?

Standard OTC antihistamines, benadryl, in a 50 mg dose impairs driving ability as much or more as enough alcohol to make the subjects legally drunk. A newer non-sedating antihistamine, fexofenidine, had no more effect on driving ability than a placebo. Patients have no good way to tell whether they were impaired after taking the medicine.