April 28, 2020

Medical Conditions and Driving

When to notify DVLA of Medical Conditions

If you have a driving licence do you need to notify DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authority) about your new medical condition? Should you be unfortunate enough to lose a leg or an arm it’s probably fairly obvious that you’ll need to notify DVLA of your condition before you drive again with an adapted vehicle.

However, did you know that there is a long government list of illnesses and disorders that you may have to tell DVLA about if you develop any of them? And those are only the ones on their current A-Z list – if you have something that isn’t there, it’s a good idea to report it anyway so they can decide if you’re safe to drive.

To be accurate, some of the conditions are listed more than once with different names – high blood pressure is there and so is its medical name, hypertension, listed separately. It’s still a hefty list though.

What happens if you don’t notify DVLA?

If you don’t let DVLA know of your medical problem before you take to the roads again and you have an accident, there’s a number of things that could happen:

  • You could be fined up to £1000 for the omission
  • You could face prosecution for non-disclosure if you have a serious accident
  • Your insurance could be invalidated and the insurance company could refuse to pay a claim

Many of the conditions on the list you’ll probably already realise will need to be notified:

  • Blackouts
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Dementia
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Glaucoma
  • Loss of sight in one eye
  • Serious heart problems
  • Stroke

and many more other common-sense ones.

Every item on the list is a link to a page which gives more information about the notification requirement and how it can differ according to the type of vehicle you drive. Bus, coach or lorry licenses often have different criteria.

If your problem is with your vision, you will find our post on eyesight and driving very useful.

Information you’ll find on the list

The first line says whether you categorically must tell DVLA about your condition – ones like blepharospasm (uncontrollable eye closing) just tell you that you must report it.

Others say that you need to inform DVLA only if the disorder affects your ability to drive safely. If you aren’t sure how badly it may impair your driving, ask your doctor for advice.

Some listed conditions give you much more information. The diabetes page, for example, goes into great detail about the notification requirement for each type of diabetes and how it is treated.

Less obvious conditions

However, would you have thought to check whether you should notify DVLA of your eating disorder? Anorexia nervosa is on the list specifically, as is the general category of eating disorders.

The conditions which you are unlikely to have considered necessary to notify DVLA about are the ones which could cause you a problem in the event of an accident, like the eating disorders already mentioned.

Unfortunately, ignorance of the law is no defence and it’s up to you to find out if you need to let DVLA know of your condition.

Unable to drive for 3 months?

Rather surprisingly, Caesarean section is on the list but, when clicking on its link, the information given is a little more general. It tells you that you need to inform DVLA if you’ve had an operation and find yourself still unable to drive three months afterwards.

If this is the case, or indeed if your doctor tells you in advance that you will be medically unable to drive for three months due to any condition, you are required to surrender your driving licence and will need to apply for a new one when you’re fit to drive again.

For some of the categories on the list, it may not be the actual illness which is the problem, but the medication for it which could affect safe driving.

The listing for cancer, for example, says that you don’t have to notify it unless:

  • the condition affects your brain
  • you have to use an adapted vehicle
  • your doctor says you might not be fit to drive
  • side effects of your medication could affect your driving.

The best thing here is to discuss it with your doctor.

Advice for fleet managers

Whether you manage a company-owned fleet, or a grey fleet where employees use their own vehicles, those drivers are representing the firm when driving on company business. As such, the company can be held liable for any road accidents which occur in carrying out that business.

What can you ask?

At the recruitment stage, employers have a little more leeway with questions on health conditions than they do after the employment has begun.

It can though be difficult to find out if an employee develops a medical condition which might affect their ability to drive safely. As a manager, you may realise that something is wrong by the amount of sick leave an employee takes, but not all conditions which could affect driving safety will need time off to manage.

You can’t legally just ask that employee for information on any health condition that emerges during their employment without a valid reason for doing so. If you do decide to ask about potential medical issues, you must be able to show what that reason is. If an employee believes that they were asked the question for purposes of discrimination or as an invasion of privacy, then that employee can seek legal action against the company.

It would be hoped that an employee would naturally inform their line manager of any potentially serious problem. If they do, the line manager should be aware of the possible need to notify DVLA and should advise the employee accordingly.

However, the employee may choose not to tell their employer and, as we’ve shown, it’s not always the case that a person themselves realises their condition might affect their driving or that they need to notify DVLA.

Employer protection

In this instance, possibly the best protection for an employer is to have a robust fleet policy in place which each driver signs up to. Obviously, the company legal department or solicitor would be best placed to advise on this.

Be on the safe side

If you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition, contacting DVLA about it might not be your first thought but do keep it in mind. Check the A-Z list, ask your doctor for advice and err on the side of caution. The thought of maybe having to surrender your license, either for good or having to apply for a new one at a later date is a real pain, but it’s so much better than facing the problems that can arise if you don’t.

Also, see our Road Safety Week post for information on other road safety matters.