Driving with epilepsy means balancing the need for independence against the need for safety.
We would all enjoy the freedom of being able to travel independently whenever we need to. For this reason, many of us rely predominantly on cars to get to work, school, shopping, and social events. Therefore, for many young adults, obtaining a driver's license is very important.
Affecting about two of every 1,000 people, absence seizures (formerly called ''petit mal'' seizures) are caused by abnormal and intense electrical activity in the brain.
Normally, the brain's nerve cells (neurons) communicate with one another by firing tiny electric signals. But with a seizure, these signals become abnormal. Seizures may affect an isolated part of the brain or may involve abnormal activity in the whole brain (called generalized seizures). Absence seizures are one form of generalized...
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.