Driving and Epilepsy

Having a diagnosis of epilepsy may impact your driving status. It is important to discuss transport and driving guidelines with your GP or neurologist.

At Epilepsy Queensland, we understand the challenges and concerns relating to a change in driving status, even if this is on a temporary- basis.

A number of health conditions, including epilepsy and seizure disorders, can impair a person’s ability to drive safely. As seizures can cause loss or impairment of awareness and loss of motor control, the risks associated with driving are increased. Driver health and fitness to drive is imperative to road safety, not only for the drivers themselves but for the safety of passengers, pedestrians and other drivers.

Assessing Fitness to Drive guidelines

Assessing Fitness to Drive is a joint publication developed by Austroads and the National Transport Commission (NTC) and outlines the medical standards for driver licensing to be adhered to by health professionals and driver licensing authorities. You can find information relevant to seizures and epilepsy in Section 6.2 of this document.

In general, responsible individuals with well-managed epilepsy may be considered by the driver licensing authority to be fit to drive a private vehicle. This is dependant on observing the appropriate seizure-free period and compliance with treatment and other recommendations. Conditional licences rely on individual responsibility for the management of their condition, including compliance with treatment, in conjunction with the support of a health professional and regular review.

Your first seizure

Following an unprovoked first seizure, the Australian recommendation is a driving ban for a minimum of 6 months for private vehicle licence holders. For a provoked seizure, the same recommendation applies for Australian drivers.

It is good medical practice for any person with initial seizures to be referred to a specialist, for accurate diagnosis of the specific epilepsy syndrome so that appropriate treatment is instituted and all the risks associated with epilepsy, including driving, can be explained. With regard to licensing, the treating doctor/general practitioner may liaise with the driver licensing authority about whether the criteria are met for driving a private vehicle, but only a specialist may do so for a commercial vehicle driver.

The following Queensland Health document is a good source of further information containing transport and driving guidelines: click here.

Your responsibilities

Austroads Section 6.2.2 details the responsibilities of licence holders.

The person:

  • must continue to take anti-epileptic medication regularly as prescribed.
  • should get adequate sleep and not drive when sleep-deprived.
  • should avoid circumstances, or the use of substances (e.g. excessive alcohol), that are known to increase the risk of seizures.

If a person refuses to follow a treating doctor’s recommendation to take anti-epileptic medication, it is likely the person will be assessed as not fit to drive.

Consequences of non-disclosure

Further describing a driver’s role and responsibilities, Austroads advises drivers may be liable at common law if they continue to drive knowing that they have a condition that is likely to adversely affect safe driving. Drivers should be aware that there may be long-term financial, insurance and legal consequences where there is failure to report an impairment to their driver licensing authority.

Options for travel assistance

If your condition prohibits the use of public transport, you may be eligible for the following supports.

Taxi Subsidy Scheme

For people with severe disabilities who are unable to use other forms of subsidised public transport, the Taxi Subsidy Scheme (TSS), under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) may provide a co-contribution of up to $25 per trip for those eligible. The scheme was due to end on June 30, 2019, however, the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments have dedicated funding to ensure the scheme can be accessed by NDIS participants until 31 October 2021.

For further information click here.

Mobility allowance

Where a person experiences a disability, illness or injury that means they cannot use public transport, they may be eligible for a mobility allowance payment to assist with travel costs for work, study or job seeking.

You can find further information from Services Australia here. 

The above information has been abstracted from the following references