Do I need to disclose a medical condition to drive?

Rachel Greene-Taylor
Written by: Rachel Greene-Taylor
Posted on: 27 October 2016

You wouldn’t trust a bus driver with a blindfold on. And you’d lose faith in your pilot if he failed to disclose a heart condition.

We don’t accept this behaviour from others, so why do an estimated 3.4 million drivers in England and Wales fail to disclose relevant medical conditions to DVLA?

You must tell DVLA if you have a driving licence and:

  • you develop a notifiable medical condition or disability
  • you have a condition or disability that’s worsened since you got your licence

Notifiable conditions are anything that could affect your ability to drive safely, including:

  • epilepsy
  • strokes
  • other neurological and mental health conditions
  • physical disabilities
  • visual impairments

Why should I disclose a medical condition for driving?

From our research we found most people fail to disclose a medical condition because they believe it has no effect on their driving.

However, some medical conditions do affect your ability to drive safely and DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland) will assess your medical condition or disability to determine whether you can continue to drive.

The most common types of medical conditions suffered by drivers in England and Wales are:

  • Heart conditions
  • Stroke or mini stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Physical disability
  • Brain condition or severe head injury
  • Visual impairment
  • Epilepsy

All these could effect your driving – so it’s best to double check with DVLA.

What’s the process of declaring a medical condition to DVLA?

You can see whether your medical condition is notifiable by looking at the full list of health conditions on the Government website. Click on one of the conditions listed and you’ll be directed to the right form to complete and return.

Once you’ve disclosed your medical condition and sent off the form to DVLA, they’ll usually make a decision and respond within six weeks.

DVLA might contact your doctor, arrange a medical examination or ask you to take a driving test.

Whether you can carry on driving depends on if you surrendered your licence voluntarily or if your doctor revoked your licence for medical reasons.

If you surrendered your licence voluntarily, and your doctor has deemed you fit behind the wheel, then you should be fine to drive. Check the government website for more information on when you can start driving again.

How can bad eyesight have a negative effect on my driving?

In 2015, 64 people were killed or seriously injured due to drivers with poor eyesight.

We tested five different drives in the Transport Research Laboratory’s advanced driving simulator, the Digicar. Each scenario had a different level of vision for the participant, and once the vision dropped below the legal requirement, the driver’s performance also dropped considerably.

Poor eyesight makes it harder to stay in the right lane, maintain the correct speed and leave a safe distance to the car in front. Not only that, it also takes longer to react to unexpected hazards.

Do I need to let DVLA know if I need glasses for driving?

At the beginning of your practical exam you have a quick eye test; to read a number plate from 20 metres away. If you can’t read the number plate it’s an instant fail, and DVLA will require you to have an eye test with DVSA.

If you don’t meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving without glasses or contacts, then it’s illegal to get behind the wheel of a car without them.

If you’re not wearing your glasses and have a crash, then you’ll risk invalidating your insurance, and you could face a £1,000 fine or even prison.

If you have any other medical problems with your eyesight then you must let DVLA know. You might not even notice a change in your vision, but regular eye checks will spot conditions like cataracts or glaucoma (both of which make it harder to see when driving in the dark), as well as general deterioration.

Our research showed 37% of drivers haven’t had an eye test in the past two years or more

Think of an eye test like getting an MOT – you wouldn’t drive your car with a misted up windscreen, so don’t let your eyes fog up either. And if you’re over seventy, it’s even more important to get regular eyesight checks.

How do DVLA decide what to do with my licence?

DVLA will assess your medical condition or disability and consider the options.

They’ll see if you need a new driving licence, whether you need a shorter licence (that will be reviewed in one, two, three or five years), if you need to adapt your car, or if you have to stop driving.

DVLA won’t take your licence away without giving you a medical reason. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take it forever, and they’ll let you know when you can reapply for your licence. There’s also potential to appeal against the decision.

If I don’t disclose a medical condition, will it affect my car insurance?

If you’re in an accident, and it turns out you have an undisclosed notifiable medical condition, this could have the potential to invalidate your claim. And if your eyesight doesn’t meet the legal minimum requirement then this could also impact your car insurance claim.

Each claim is unique, but if you have a medical condition then check with DVLA – hiding it isn’t worth the risk.

And if you’re due an eyesight test, take a quick trip to the opticians. The last thing you want to be thinking after an accident is; ‘I should’ve gone to Specsavers’.

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