Driving and Epilepsy

Driving is one of the most treasured rights of adulthood. It offers freedom and independence to work, visit friends, and join in sports and hobbies. This is why the loss of driving privileges is often a major concern to people living with epilepsy.

Nearly all adults in the general U.S. population have a driving license. However, only 7 out of 10 adults with epilepsy do. This means seizures that limit driving may dramatically impact a person’s ability to remain employed or socialize.1

It is important to know that when it comes to driving, not all seizures are created equal.

The type of seizures most likely to limit driving are:2

  • Seizures that cause vision loss or vision changes
  • Seizures that limit mobility or the ability to control muscles
  • Seizures with a loss of consciousness
  • Drug-resistant or uncontrolled seizures

Statistics show that people with epilepsy are more likely to be involved in accidents than the general population. Many of these accidents happen during a first seizure, not after someone has their epilepsy under control.1

However, people with epilepsy still have fewer fatal accidents than the most dangerous drivers on the road: young drivers and those who abuse alcohol. Among fatal driving accidents, less than 1 out of 100 are due to seizures, and 30 out of 100 are alcohol-related.2

Laws about driving with epilepsy

Every U.S. state has different laws about driving and epilepsy. Most require a person to be seizure-free for a certain amount of time. This time can vary widely – from 0 months to 2 years. The laws do not distinguish between repeated seizures and single seizures.1,2

It is the same in countries outside the United States. Some do not allow anyone who has ever had a seizure to drive. Others allow people with epilepsy to drive after months or years of being seizure-free.1,2

This only applies to personal driving. Professional drivers with epilepsy must meet different standards.1

Each state also requires doctors to report if someone has seizures and whether they are fit to drive. Again, the requirements for this vary from state to state.1

If you have questions about driving and epilepsy, start by talking with your doctor. They will know how to review local laws and what is required for you to keep driving or get your license back. Depending on your state, you may be required to report your epilepsy diagnosis to your car insurance company.

You may also consult the Epilepsy Foundation’s database of state driving laws.

Questions to ask your doctor

If you have had a first seizure or your seizures have returned, you will probably have many questions, including about how this may impact your driving. Some questions to ask your doctor include:

  • Can I still drive?
  • Will medicine fully control my seizures?
  • Will any side effects like drowsiness interfere with driving?
  • If I have auras before a seizure, am I likely to have enough time to safely stop the car?

If you have been seizure-free for years, you and your doctor may decide to try tapering you off your anti-seizure drugs. You may be told to stop driving until it is clear you will remain seizure-free off your medicine.

The good news is that most people whose seizures are controlled by anti-seizure drugs can safely drive. The only requirement is to take the medicines as prescribed to avoid break-through seizures.1

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: November 2021