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US driving regulations on epilepsy vary widely

10 December, 2001

The regulations governing whether people with epilepsy are able to drive are vary widely across the United States, according to a report published in the journal Neurology.

In the US, each state is responsible for setting its own regulations. Researchers, led by Dr Gregory Krauss from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, compared the driving laws of each state. In 27 states and the District of Columbia (DC), the law requires drivers to be seizure free for a fixed period, ranging from 3 to 12 months, while the remaining 23 states allow more flexibility and decisions are based on a case by case basis.

In 13 states, doctors help determine whether someone is able to drive, but in 6 of these states, the doctor is not legaly shielded for their decisions.

"The number of people who die from seizure-related crashes is quite small compared to the number who die from crashes due to other conditions," Dr Krauss said.

"However, because seizure-related crashes are thought to be preventable it is something that warrants attention."

"We found that there were just about as many different approaches as there are states," Dr Krauss said.

He noted that previously he and his group showed that a 6 to 12 month seizure-free period "is associated with a marked reduction in crash risk compared to shorter periods. People who had their medications adjusted by a doctor and those who had a reliable aura were also less likely to crash" he said.