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.
Tongue-biting, thrashing limbs, eyes rolled in the back of the head -- witnessing someone with epilepsy having a convulsive seizure can be truly frightening. But most seizures aren't an emergency; they stop on their own, with no permanent ill effects.
There is little you can do to stop a seizure once it has started. But by learning a few tips, you can protect a person with epilepsy from harm during seizures. It's worth knowing some basic first aid for seizures -- and when it's time to call 911.
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.