For someone who has seizures, living without a driver’s license can be one of the most difficult adjustments he or she has to make. Where you live, your choice of a job, your social interactions, your basic independence can be affected by not being able to drive.
State governments try to balance the rights of individuals and the right of the public to have safe highways. Each state has developed its own rules for issuing driver’s licenses. Your doctor can help you determine whether you can safely drive and whether you meet the requirements for a driver’s license in your particular state.
The following information applies to drivers in the State of New York.
- In New York State, is my doctor required to report that I had a seizure?
No, New York is a self-reporting state. You have a moral obligation to report a seizure at the time of initial or renewal application. However, you should discuss any seizures immediately with your doctor and heed his advice about whether you should drive. This is for your own safety as well as the safety of the other people on the highway.
- How is a seizure defined in New York State?
Section 502 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law is concerned with Loss of Consciousness, which is defined as “not being aware of one’s surroundings, or of one’s existence and the inability to receive, interpret or react to sensory impressions as the result of seizure, epilepsy or any disorder affecting consciousness or control.”
- If I have had a Loss of Consciousness, what happens?
You must report a Loss of Consciousness when you apply for a driver’s license or when you apply for a renewal. Your physician must provide a statement about the cause and circumstance of that Loss of Consciousness.
- If I have had a Loss of Consciousness, can I regain my driver’s license?
Yes, but your doctor’s statement must confirm one of three different circumstances: 1) You have not had a Loss of Consciousness within the previous 12 months. 2) You have had a Loss of Consciousness in the last 12 months, BUT it was solely due to a change in medication ordered by your doctor. This includes a hospital admission for video-EEG Long Term Monitoring. 3) You have had a Loss of Consciousness but your physician states that, in his opinion, your loss of consciousness will not interfere with your safe operation of a vehicle.In addition, the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, in consultation with his medical consultant, must state that he has no grounds to disagree with your physician.
- Can I appeal the Commissioner’s decision to revoke my driver’s license?
If the Commissioner denies or revokes your license, he will send you a letter stating you have 30 days to reply to his letter. If you do not reply in 30 days, your license will be revoked. If the Commissioner decides that you are an immediate hazard, he will deny or revoke your license immediately. You will have 30 days to request a departmental hearing.
- If I regain my driver’s license, how long can I keep it?
You must submit evidence of your fitness to drive each year. Your doctor must examine you within 120 days of your application, and he or she must state that your medication keeps your seizures under control.
- What if it is no longer necessary for me to take medication?
If you come off medication and remain seizure-free for 12 months, your doctor can submit a statement to the Department of Motor Vehicles saying that medication is no longer necessary to control your seizures. Then you will not be required to submit a physician’s annual statement verifying your fitness to drive.
- If my license is revoked, how can I regain it?
Work with your doctor to attain maximum seizure control.The key is to properly diagnose the type of seizure each patient experiences and to give them the treatment that is most effective for that type. We feel that patients who have only one seizure per year can benefit from and evaluation at the Strong Epilepsy Center because one siezure per year could keep that patient from driving.At the Strong Epilepsy Center, we understand the limitations that come with the loss of driving privileges. Our goal is to help as many patients as possible become seizure-free.It is important that you not drive if you do not have a license. Beyond the obvious risk to yourself and to others, there is a steep price to be paid when you are caught driving without a license. Keep working with your physician to achieve maximum control of your seizure disorder until you reach the point where you can drive safely and legally.
For additional information consult the Department of Motor Vehicles for your state: