Image by Alexander Fox | PlaNet Fox from Pixabay
Image by Alexander Fox | PlaNet Fox from Pixabay

Impairments caused by health problems can significantly affect driving ability. Driving can be thought of as a continuous loop, where information about the road, other drivers, and the vehicle is processed by the brain. This processing leads to the driver taking action to adjust the speed and direction of the vehicle and to direct their gaze to likely danger areas. The results of these actions then feed back into further rounds of adjustments. A long list of medical problems can interfere with driving performance, but a limited number of cases are usually encountered in practice, mainly epilepsy, diabetes, heart diseases, and vision problems.

Decision-Making Process

The decision on fitness to drive is usually based on information obtained from the driver and a medical report from the driver's doctor. However, as part of the decision-making process, the Medical Branch of the Licensing Agency may request a practical assessment of driving ability. Some people, following an injury or illness, seek advice on their ability to drive before informing the Licensing Agency of their medical condition.

Conditions Requiring Notification to DVLA

The DVLA website lists almost 200 conditions in alphabetical order for which people may need to notify. For any condition that could potentially interfere with driving capacity, refer to this guide. Some of the more common examples for which the DVLA states it must be informed include:

  1. An epileptic event (seizure or fit)
  2. Sudden attacks of disabling giddiness, fainting, or blackouts
  3. Severe learning disability
  4. A pacemaker or implanted defibrillator device fitted
  5. Diabetes controlled by insulin or tablets that have a high risk of causing hypoglycemia (e.g., sulfonylureas)
  6. Parkinson's disease
  7. Any other chronic neurological condition
  8. Dementia or a serious problem with memory
  9. A major or minor cerebrovascular event (only if there is residual neurological or cognitive deficit one month after the event)
  10. Multiple transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) over a short period but not a single TIA
  11. Any type of brain surgery, brain tumor, or severe head injury involving inpatient treatment at a hospital
  12. Any severe psychiatric illness or mental disorder
  13. Continuing/permanent difficulty in the use of arms or legs which affects your ability to control a vehicle
  14. Dependence on or misuse of alcohol, illicit drugs, or chemical substances in the previous three years (excluding drink-driving offenses)
  15. Any visual disability which affects BOTH eyes (excluding short/long sight or color blindness)
  16. Narcolepsy or other primary hypersomnia

International Standards for Drivers Medicals

While there are many international standards for drivers' medicals, the document "Assessing Fitness to Drive – A Guide for Medical Professionals" by the UK Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is one of the most commonly used standards worldwide. This comprehensive guide assists healthcare professionals in advising their patients on whether the DVLA requires notification of a medical condition and what the likely licensing outcomes from DVLA’s medical enquiries are.

For more information about this standard document or guidelines, please visit: DVLA: Assessing fitness to drive: guide for medical professionals