These changes were expected late last year, but were delayed. They follow changes recommended by the introduction of the new European Directive on Driving Standards in 2011.
The changes will affect Group 1 licences, which cover driving cars and motorcycles for personal use. This is the licence that most people have.
In the main, people will still have to be seizure-free for one year before they can apply for a licence. People who have only ever had one seizure will still have to wait six months and not have another seizure before they can reapply for a licence.
However, there are some changes to people in specific circumstances.
Drivers who have only had seizures while asleep (and have only ever had seizures while asleep) may now be considered for a licence after one year. This used to be three years.
Seizures that do not affect consciousness
Currently people who have ongoing seizures that do not affect their consciousness are unable to hold a driving licence. The new law will allow people who have these types of seizure to apply for a licence while they are still having seizures. This only applies if a person has never had seizures that affect consciousness (the ability to act). They can apply for a licence one year after diagnosis.
There is a change to the law if a person’s epilepsy drug treatment is changed by a doctor or nurse. For example, if a person’s medication is changed, and this causes them to start having seizures again, they may return to the old successful treatment. In this case, they will be able to reapply for a licence after six months without a seizure. Until now this wait has been one year.
There are also some very specific changes that will affect a very small number of people, related to the issues above. We appreciate that these are difficult and complex changes to fully understand and Epilepsy Action will soon be updating its advice and information pages to include all changes.
The rules regarding Group 2 licences (heavy goods vehicles, tractors, towing vehicles) will not be changing. This means that people will still need a period of 10 years where they have not had a seizure or taken anti-epileptic medication, before they can apply for a Group 2 licence.
You can read the ‘Explanatory Memorandum’ produced by the Department of Transport, which goes into more detail about these changes.
If anyone is unsure about how the new regulations will affect them they should seek medical advice. They also can contact Epilepsy Action’s helpline on freephone 0808 800 5050.