Medical matters: fit to drive?

Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by GEM Motoring Assist

Checking out what you need to know about medical conditions that might affect your driving.

In order to use the public roads safely as a driver, you must be in good health. Many common conditions can affect your ability to drive and so, put the lives other road users at risk. If you have had, or currently suffer from, a medical condition or disability that affects your driving you must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You must also provide the DVLA with relevant details if a condition you suffered from when your licence was issued has become worse. Failure to notify the DVLA is a criminal offence and is punishable by a fine of up to £1000. If you are in this position, you should also inform your insurance company to make sure you are still covered to drive.

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Medical standards
All medical staff are issued with the Government document, ‘Medical Standards of Fitness to Drive’, which outlines in detail when patients should cease driving.

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Notifiable conditions
There’s a huge list of medical conditions which can render you unfit to drive. Each case has to be considered on an individual basis. However, the following list outlines some of the conditions that would always result in your licence being refused or revoked:

  • epilepsy
  • severe mental disorder
  • liability to sudden attacks of disabling giddiness or fainting
  • liability to sudden attacks of disabling giddiness or fainting which are caused by any disorder or defect of the heart which has caused you to have a device, such as a pacemaker implanted
  • persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol whether or not such misuse amounts to dependency
  • any other disability likely to cause you to be a danger to the public when driving a vehicle

These conditions are classed as ‘relevant disabilities’ but the Regulations also cover ‘prospective disabilities’- those that may become a relevant disability in the course of time, for example multiple sclerosis.
Both relevant and prospective disabilities are classed as ‘notifiable conditions’, so you must notify the DVLA to avoid committing an offence. Doctors should inform their patients if they are unfit to drive or if they need to contact the DVLA about a medical condition.

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Eyesight and driving
Most of us will remember from our driving test that we are required to be able to read a standard number plate at a distance (which is 20.5 metres). The new style number plate must be read at a distance of 20 metres, using correcting lenses if required.
If you think your eyesight does not meet the legal requirements you must tell the DVLA immediately. It is a criminal offence to fail to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of any eyesight conditions likely to cause a driver to be a source of danger to other road users. This applies if you suffer from cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes or any other relevant medical conditions, which constitute a notifiable disability.
If you are involved in an accident and are then found to have an undeclared notifiable disability, insurance cover could be at risk. Having a notifiable eyesight condition does not necessarily mean that you will be banned from driving.

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Informing the DVLA
Once you have been told not to drive by your doctor, and you are suffering from a notifiable condition, you must inform the DVLA. The medical assessors at the DVLA will then do one of the following:

  • Allow you to keep your licence without restriction
  • Issue you with a licence for one, two or three years, in order to keep a regular check on your condition
  • Refuse or withdraw the licence

If your licence is revoked, the DVLA will provide an explanation as to why and, if possible, will let you know when you will be able to re-apply for a licence. Alternatively, you can choose to surrender your licence to the DVLA. Surrendering the licence removes the need for the DVLA to make formal medical enquiries into your fitness to drive. Details on surrendering a driving licence can be obtained from the DVLA website.

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Q: What can I do if my application for a licence is refused or if my licence is revoked?
A: You have the right to appeal against the decision to refuse or revoke your licence to the Magistrates Court, but you must appeal within six months of the decision. Before you appeal to the Magistrates Court you must give notice of your intention to appeal to the DVLA.

Q: I had a heart attack a month ago. Can I now drive and should I inform the DVLA?
A: It is recommended that you don’t drive for at least one week following coronary angioplasty (with or without stent), or at least one month following other heart operations, heart attack or acute coronary syndrome. You may resume driving after this time if your recovery has been uncomplicated and you have your doctor’s approval. There is no need to inform the DVLA.

Q: How do I inform the DVLA of my condition and how long will it take for them to make a decision on whether I can go on driving or not?
A: You can either download a medical questionnaire from the DVLA’s website and email it back to them, or telephone them (0870 600 0301) and they will post the questionnaire to you. If the information you supply on the questionnaire is detailed enough, the DVLA medical adviser will make a decision on the strength of that alone and will aim to inform you within 15 working days. However, if further information is required, the medical adviser may need to contact your doctor, arrange for you to be examined or ask you to undergo a driving assessment. In this case, the process takes longer, but the adviser will try to make a decision within 90 working days.

Q: If I surrender my licence voluntarily, can I get it back again at a later date?
A: As long as your medical condition no longer means you are unfit to drive, you can apply to have your licence reinstated. Medical enquiries will need to be made, but as soon as your application is received at the DVLA you may resume driving provided you meet the following criteria:

  • You have logged a valid application with the DVLA
  • You would not be refused a licence for medical reasons and are fit to drive (you should check this with your doctor)
  • You must have held a GB or Northern Ireland licence (or another exchangeable licence) since January 1, 1976
  • You keep to any special conditions that apply to you, or your licence (eg. you must use special controls or can only drive an automatic)
  • You are not disqualified from driving


The information on this Site is provided on the understanding that GEM Motoring Assist is not rendering legal or other advice. You should consult your own professional advisers as to legal or other advice relevant to any action you wish to take in connection with this website.

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