Driving with epilepsy means balancing the need for independence against the need for safety.
We prefer the freedom of being able to travel independently whenever and wherever we need to. For this reason, many of us rely on cars to get to work, school, shopping, and social events. For most young adults, obtaining a driver's license is an important milestone.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by recurrent seizures -- episodes of abnormal electrical activity in almost any part of the brain. The symptoms of a seizure can mimic different types of human behavior, depending on which part of the brain is affected. Generally, the term epilepsy (or seizure disorder) refers to relatively stereotyped attacks of involuntary behavior. The exact symptoms and severity may vary, and the seizures may occur infrequently or in rapid succession.
Each state has individual driving regulations. People with epilepsy are required to report their condition to their State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, states require different people to do the reporting. Some states require the doctor to contact the DMV. Other states require the patient to sign a simple form at the time of application for a license or at the time of license renewal, declaring that they will notify the DMV of changes in their health status or driving ability.
When a person with epilepsy wishes to drive for the first time, an application will need to be filled out. When someone who already holds a driver's license is newly diagnosed with epilepsy, that person is responsible to notify the proper authority.
Individuals with uncontrolled seizures have a higher risk of an accident if they drive, which is why doctors advise patients with seizures that they should not drive until their seizures are under control. This may be after six months or a year depending on the state. If a well-controlled person has a seizure after the doctor changes the medication, the patient may or may not be able to continue driving.
Seizures are unpredictable and even a small seizure at the wrong time can lead to an injury or death. The best solution, if possible, is to get the seizures under control. To do this, work together with your doctor to get on the right treatment and to honestly discuss your seizures with him or her.
Information is subject to change. Please contact your state's DMV office for the most current information.