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Seizures play minimal risk in road accidents

2 January, 2002

A study has found that only a small number of road deaths are attributable to seizures, according to research undertaken at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Of the 44,000 fatalities on US roads every year, around 1,500 (around 3 per cent of all deaths) were linked to medical conditions, and of these, an average of less than 90 deaths per year were associated with seizures.

The researchers reviewed death certificates from the 1995 to 1997 and searched for medical conditions in those who died, comparing the frequency of epilepsy with other conditions, such as heart or blood pressure conditions.

Co-author Dr Gregory Krauss said:

"Our study has shown that there's not a major public safety issue with patients with epilepsy driving, in that the numbers of crashes are fairly small compared with other conditions - particularly in comparison to alcohol-related crashes''

However, Dr Krauss said the report should not encourage people with epilepsy to drive without consulting their doctor.

"The total numbers are small, but individual risk is elevated compared to those without epilepsy'' he said. "So patients shouldn't drive until their seizures are controlled since it is potentially a preventable problem.''

Dr Krauss' research team reported recently on the fact that the regulations governing whether people with epilepsy are able to drive are vary widely across the United States