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Driving rules if you change or withdraw your epilepsy medicine

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.

These rules only apply to group 1 licences. You can’t hold a group 2 licence to drive a bus, coach or lorry if you’re taking epilepsy medicines.

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

Your doctor will advise you if you need to stop driving and for how long. You don’t need to tell the driving agency or return your licence, unless you have a seizure.

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

The driving agencies recommend that for safety, you should stop driving during the period of medicine withdrawal, and for 6 months after withdrawal is complete. Your doctor will tell you if you can start driving again earlier than this. You don’t need to tell the driving agency or return your licence, unless you have a seizure.

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

If you have a seizure while changing or withdrawing your epilepsy medicine, in most cases you’ll need to stop driving and surrender you licence.

You’re likely to lose your licence for 12 months, but you may be able to get it back sooner than this if you go back to the medicine that previously controlled your seizures. This may apply if:

  • You’ve been back on that treatment for at least 6 months and
  • You’ve been seizure free since going back on that treatment

There are just 2 exceptions where you don’t need to stop driving and surrender your licence. These are:

  • You have a licence based on having sleep seizures, and the seizure you had was a sleep seizure or
  • You have a licence based on having seizures that don’t affect your consciousness, and the seizure you had was the same type

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: 
B005.05

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

Ed Foxhell has declared no conflict of interest.

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

  • Updated March 2017
    To be reviewed March 2018

Comments: read the 8 comments or add yours

Comments

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