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Driving rules when changing and withdrawing epilepsy medicines

These pages are about driving laws in the UK. If you are looking for information about driving laws in another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation.

I am changing my epilepsy medicine. Do I need to stop driving?

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales
Your doctor will advise you if you need to stop driving and for how long. You don’t need to tell DVLA or return your licence.

If you live in Northern Ireland
You must stop driving and tell DVA when your epilepsy medicine is changed. Six months after the change-over is complete, you should apply for a medical form to DVA. DVA will advise you if you can start driving again.

I am withdrawing my epilepsy medicine. Do I need to stop driving?

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales
DVLA recommends that for safety, you should stop driving during the period of medicine withdrawal, and for six months after withdrawal is complete. You don’t need to inform DVLA or return your licence. Your doctor can decide if it is possible for you to start driving earlier than this, but make sure you check you would still have insurance cover.

If you live in Northern Ireland
You must stop driving and inform DVA when your epilepsy medicine is withdrawn. Six months after withdrawal is complete, you should apply for a medical form to DVA. DVA will advise you if you can start driving again.

What happens if I have a seizure while I am changing or withdrawing my epilepsy medicine?

If you already have a licence based on having asleep seizures only, or on having only seizures which involve no loss of consciousness, and you have another seizure of the same type as your licence allows, you will not need to stop driving.

If you have a licence based on being at least 12 months seizure free, you will need to stop driving and tell the driving agency.

You may be able to reapply for your licence after six months of being seizure free again. This is if:

  • You were seizure free before the medicine change started and
  • You have written advice from your doctor approving the withdrawal and
  • You go back to the dose of epilepsy medicine on which you were seizure free

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action freephone Helpline on 0808 800 5050.

Code: 
B005.04

This information was written by Epilepsy Action’s advice and information team, with guidance and input from people living with epilepsy and experts at DVLA.

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Edward Foxell at DVLA for his contribution to this information. 

The DVLA has no conflict of interest.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated April 2015
    To be reviewed April 2018

Comments: read the 11 comments or add yours

Comments

Hi
I got a virus which caused a blood clot on my brain last May . The blood clot left but I suffered seizures . The last been the 29 th may 2014.
I have been seizure free for 10 months...I was advised by my neurologist to reduce my tablets slowly and I followed her advice..I came off the tablets last Thursday and by the early hours Saturday morning I was being sick and walking around confused. I'm not sure yet whether I have had a seizure and I am waiting to see the neurologist.
If I have and it's a result of coming off medication as followed by my neurologist then how long will I have to wait until I can drive again.
I am back on the medication and have been for a week seizure free.
Thanks

Submitted by Cath on

Hi Cath

Thank you for your question. We can’t give you a definite answer, as we have not come across this situation before. The DVLA should be able to advise you

Generally, people only withdraw from their epilepsy medicine once they have been completely seizure free for several years.  So most people will already have their licence back based on being at least one year seizure free. If after withdrawing their medicine they have a seizure they will need to stop driving and tell the driving agency.

Some people can reapply for their licence back after six months of being seizure free again. This is if:

• they were seizure free before the medicine change started and

• they have written advice from their doctor approving the withdrawal and

• they go back to the dose of epilepsy medicine on which they were seizure free.

But as you are only 10 months seizure free we are unclear how the DVLA will view your case. 

Regards

Diane
Advice and Information Services Officer, Epilepsy Action

Submitted by Diane@Epilepsy ... on

i was prescribed medication after 2 unwitnessed blackouts . My neurologist knows i am only taking small dose and is happy enough to discharge me as all the mri and eeg tests seem ok. I must be honest and say I havent taken any and have been blackout free for over almost a year, will this stop me from having my licence back and should I come clean with GP

Submitted by fran turner on

My nurse has advised that I may need to change my medication as I am heavily pregnant and I await blood tests to confirm levels. I have been seizure free for a number of years and was due to get my 10 year licence back at the end of this year. Will the change in medication result in me having my licence removed as it is purely down to pregnancy (I use my car for my job and am frantic!)

Submitted by Mum to Be on

Hello
Thanks for your message and congratulations on your pregnancy. It must be worrying to hear you may need to change your epilepsy medicine when you have been seizure free for a long time. Has the nurse said why you might need to change your medicine? It’s not usually necessary to change your epilepsy medicine in late pregnancy unless you have had an increase in seizures. You might find that you don’t need to change your medicine, but it’s understandable that you want to be prepared by checking the driving rules

The rules about driving when changing epilepsy medicines are different depending on where you live. In England, Scotland and Wales you should follow your doctor’s advice if they say you need to stop driving for a while, but you don’t need to tell the DVLA or return your licence. So if you continue to be seizure free the change in medication should not affect your licence. If you did have a seizure you would need to let the DVLA know and surrender your licence. We have more information about reporting seizures to the driving agency.

If you live in Northern Ireland you must stop driving and tell the DVA if your epilepsy medicine is changed. Six months after the changeover is complete, you can apply to the DVA for a medical form. They will let you know when you can start driving again.

I hope this helps. You might also find it helpful to read our information about epilepsy and having a baby. If you have any further questions please feel free to get in touch.

Grace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Graces, Epileps... on

Hi
I have been seizure free for 18 months nearly now never had a seizure before till I found out I had encephalitis which I have been treated for and now back to myself again. I am on medication but came of keppra in september before I come off keppra I re applied for my licence. Cause Ave come off keppra will this effect me driving again? I am still on a other medication that I have said I want to stay on for life now. Really stuck as since been off keppra Ave felt even better.

Submitted by David on

Hi David
Coming off the Keppra means you’re in a slightly grey area between withdrawing from and changing your medication. So I think the best thing is to check with your neurologist what they think you need to do. Certainly if you are remaining seizure free and you feel better, staying off the Keppra sounds like a really good idea!

I hope it all continues to go well for you.

Cherry
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

I have been on Phenetoin Sodium for 11 years and have only just found out, by changing GP, that long term use of the drug is not recommended. I have had a test for osteoperosis which is satisfactory.

After 9 years seizure free Advice from my neurologist Is that I am at minimum risk to come of medication altogether (20 percent chance in 2 years), and minimum risk on drugs 10 percent chance in 2 years.

What is the Driving Licence penalty to change to another drug, my GP suggested I should contact DVLA Direct? Obviously the other option is clear. Regards

Submitted by Roger Robinson-Brown on

Hi Roger
If you are in England, Scotland or Wales then the DVLA says that if you are changing epilepsy medicines you don’t have to tell the DVLA. But you need to take the advice of your doctor.

I hope that answers your question. If not feel free to contact us again either by email or the Epilepsy Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Cherry 
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

I have been seizure free for about 15 years although my tablets were increased as i was having 'deja vou' symptoms, but over 5 years ago my consultant advised i could now gradually reduce these again. On my last visit they reduced my Tegretol Prolonged Release by 200mg without the need to stop driving, however I am keen to reduece further but my GP has said I need to find out if I need to stop driving for a while in order to reduce them again? Any advice please, thank you

Submitted by Lisa King on

Hi Lisa

Thanks for your message. Legally you don’t have to stop driving or inform DVLA about changes to your epilepsy medicine, as long as you are following your doctor’s advice. This applies in England, Scotland and Wales. If your GP isn’t sure if you should stop driving, they could contact your consultant to check.

If you live in Northern Ireland the rules are different and you may have to stop driving for a while. The best thing to do would be to contact DVA to check.

I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch.

Best wishes

Grace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by tpottinger on