Epilepsy and Driving
Many states do not allow people with epilepsy to get or keep a driver's license, unless they can prove that they have been seizure-free for a specific amount of time. Some people are able to return to driving once their epilepsy is under control; the waiting period varies depending on the state.
Driving can represent freedom, control, and competence. It enables most people to get to the places they want or need to go. For many people, driving is important economically -- some drive as part of their job or to get to and from work. Others drive to be able to shop for necessities, to maintain social connections, or participate in activities.
Driving is a complex skill. Our ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional, and mental condition.
Having a seizure can cause you to lose control of your body, change the way you act and sense things, or make you pass out suddenly. If you have a seizure while you are driving, you could lose control of your car and cause a crash. You could hurt yourself and others.
Some people who have had epilepsy are able to return to driving once their epilepsy is under control. But your return to safe driving after one or more seizures depends on the following key factors:
- The type of seizure you typically have
- The cause of your seizure
- The laws of the state in which you are licensed
- How long you have been free of seizures that affect your awareness.
The amount of time before your license is returned varies from three months to a year, depending on the laws in your state. If your doctor has diagnosed you as having epilepsy, states will require that you are treated for that condition with medication designed to prevent epilepsy and that your epilepsy is under reliable control before the state will allow you to drive.
Check with your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to find out about the law in your state.
Your doctor may have to write a letter to your DMV stating that you are under treatment and that the medicines are keeping your epilepsy under control.