Epilepsy and Driving
Epilepsy is a condition characterised by recurring spontaneous seizures. Seizures may present as involuntary, uncontrolled movements and/or loss of awareness or consciousness. There are many different types of seizure. Whether or not you have a confirmed diagnosis of epilepsy, if you have a seizure at any time, you must stop driving and consult your doctor.
Eligibility to Drive
Eligibility to drive is tightly controlled. The rules for those driving with epilepsy are set out in Land Transport New Zealand fact sheet: Epilepsy & Driving 2004.
Driving Private Motor Vehicles
Normally, once medication has commenced and seizures have been controlled for 12 months, a person is eligible to drive. In special circumstances, on medical advice and at the discretion of Land Transport New Zealand, this may be reduced to six months.
Seizures are considered uncontrolled when there have been seizures in the last 12 months or treatment has changed in the last three to six months. Medical advice is required to help decide when it is safe to drive.
A person whose seizures have always (at least for one year) occurred only during sleep should be considered able to drive.
Passenger Service Endorsement and Heavy Vehicle Licences
These classes of licence are not available to anyone with a history of epilepsy.
Precautions for drivers with epilepsy:
- Take antiepileptic medication as prescribed, as missing doses increases the risk of seizure
- If you experience medication side effects or have another of seizure, see your doctor
- Do not discontinue medication except on advice from your doctor
- Do not drive while medication is being altered, reduced or discontinued
- Avoid long periods of driving
- Do not drive when tired
- Do not drive within 12 hours of alcohol consumption
- Antiepileptic medication increases the effect of alcohol; reactions are slower and perception of speed and distance is lessened. The danger period following alcohol consumption is greatest when blood alcohol level falls to near zero
- Check that insurance policies are valid.
Don’t drive unless your seizures are well controlled.