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Epilepsy and Driving

Topic Overview

If you have seizures that alter your awareness, consciousness, or muscle control, you may not have the legal right to drive.

  • Laws vary from state to state, but in many cases you have to be seizure-free for at least 6 months to 1 year before you can get a driver's license.
  • The laws of the state you live in, not your doctor, decide whether or not you have the right to drive. You can find out about the law in your state by visiting the Epilepsy Foundation website at www.epilepsyfoundation.org/resources/drivingandtravel.cfm
  • Before getting a license, you may have to show proof from your doctor that you are receiving treatment and that the treatment has brought your seizures under control. (Remember, too, that some drugs used to control epilepsy may make you drowsy. If you have just started a new drug, don't drive until you know how the drug will affect you.)

In general, the risk of having a seizure-related traffic accident is greatly reduced in people who have been seizure-free for 1 year. Driving may be safe before 1 year for some people. People who always have an aura before a seizure begins are also at reduced risk. The aura acts as a warning, which may give a driver time to pull over before the seizure begins. Auras are considered seizures, though, and may fall under the same guidelines for restricting driving privileges in your state.

Not taking antiepileptic medicine as prescribed (missing a dose, for instance) increases the risk of having an accident, so it is especially important to take medicine correctly, especially if you drive.

The laws about who can drive may seem unfair. Not having the legal right to drive may rob you of your sense of independence. It can limit your school and career choices, affect your social and leisure activities, and make basic needs of daily living harder to meet.

But the laws can also keep you and others safe until your seizures are under control. If you have a seizure while driving a car without a license and cause an accident, your insurance company may not cover damages or injuries. Worse, you may hurt or kill yourself or others.

You cannot predict when seizures will occur. Do not put yourself and others on the road at risk by driving without the legal right to do so.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 28, 2013

Last Revised: August 28, 2013

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