Driving with epilepsy: everything you need to know

  • November 8, 2020
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In this article
A couple driving with epilepsy

Did you know that almost three quarters of adults with epilepsy have a driving license? It has been legal for people with epilepsy to drive in all US states since the 1970s - and over time restrictions have become more relaxed. So, while driving with epilepsy is not quite as easy as it is for other people, it is still perfectly possible. 

In the US, laws in different states affect how and when people with epilepsy can drive. Here is everything that you need to know about epilepsy and driving regulations.

Can people with epilepsy drive?

Yes, generally speaking, people with epilepsy can drive. As long as a person’s seizures are ‘controlled’ by their medication or another kind of treatment, they can legally drive private vehicles (the rules about commercial vehicles are stricter). 

In the United States, state laws govern exactly how and when people with epilepsy are allowed to drive. The person with epilepsy - or sometimes their doctor - needs to demonstrate to their licensing authority that they have been seizure-free for a set period of time before they can get behind the wheel. Typically, it’s between 6 months and 1 year without a seizure, depending on the state (more detail below). 

That being said, people whose seizures are not controlled by medication (either due to still looking for the correct medication or because of drug-resistant / refractory epilepsy) may not be allowed to drive. Refractory epilepsy is when a person has tried two or more anti-seizure medications, but they don’t stop their seizures from happening. 

Is driving with epilepsy safe?

Yes. So long as your seizures are under control, driving with epilepsy is safe. Studies show that while epilepsy is linked to a very small number of traffic accidents (around one in 10,000), this figure is lower than the number of accidents caused by heart attacks. And, these are both far lower than the number of accidents involving alcohol.

In the end you know yourself best. If you have been seizure-free for as long as your state requires, there is no reason you should not be able to drive.

Learn more: Travelling with epilepsy

Epilepsy and driving regulations

If you have seizures and would like to drive, you must tell the driving authorities in your state that you have epilepsy. It is also a good idea to speak with your doctor about this too. 

Every US state has slightly different driving regulations for people with epilepsy. Depending on where you live, your right to drive will be affected by:

  • Length of ‘seizure free interval’

Seizure free interval is the amount of time since your last seizure. In some states there is no minimum amount of time you are not allowed to go driving after a seizure. In other states you need to be seizure free for as much as 12 months.

  • Permission

In some states, you may need to supply a letter from your doctor saying that your seizures are under control. In other states, you simply need to tell the driving agency that you are OK to drive. 

  • Exceptions

Some states have exceptions for the seizure free interval. For example people who only have seizures when they are asleep may still be allowed to drive even if they have had seizures recently.

If you are uncertain about epilepsy and driving regulations in your state, the best thing to do is to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles for the latest guidance. You can also find a quick reference guide on the Epilepsy Foundation website here.

Make driving with epilepsy easier

It can be very frustrating to have your independence limited by epilepsy driving regulations. However there are somethings that you can do which make it more likely that you will be able to drive:

  • Take anti epilepsy drugs consistently

Taking your anti seizure medicine as often as your doctor tells you to is one of the best ways of achieving seizure control. This means that you will be more likely to remain seizure free for the required time.

  • Know your triggers

If you are more likely to have seizures when you are tired, stressed or facing other triggers, avoid driving during these times.

  • Speak with your doctor

If you would like to drive, make sure that you speak with your seizure treatment team who can advise you on what is safe.

  • Keep a seizure diary

A seizure diary allows you to record all your seizures, auras and your anti epilepsy medications. This can help you show your doctor that you have been seizure free. With Epsy you can do this quickly and conveniently.

Know about epilepsy and driving regulations

Although many states prohibit driving after a seizure, if you can prove that your seizures are under control you should be able to get out on the open road again soon. If you ever have any doubts about whether you can safely drive with epilepsy, make sure to speak with your medical team first. 

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