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Driving and mental illness

You have to tell the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you
have certain mental illnesses.
This factsheet explains how and when to notify the DVLA about your
illness. It also sets out what could happen once the DVLA know about
your illness, and how to challenge a decision if you think it is wrong. There
is also information about medication and driving.

Many people with a mental illness drive safely. However, some


drivers need to take extra precautions or will be too unwell to drive.
There are some illnesses that you must report to the DVLA.
The DVLA will use the information you give them to decide whether
you should keep your licence.
The DVLA may ask you to have a medical examination and/or a
driving assessment.
The DVLA may decide to allow you to keep your licence.
Sometimes they grant a licence that is valid for 1, 2 or 3 years,
which will need regular reviews. Sometimes they will take your
licence away (revoke it).
If your licence is taken away, you can appeal against this.
If you have been told by your doctor that you are not fit to drive, you
may choose to give up (surrender) your licence. You can then
reapply for it when your condition has improved.
If you continue to drive against the advice of your doctor, this could
affect your insurance policy.

This factsheet covers 1.


2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Do I need to tell the DVLA about my mental illness?


How do I tell the DVLA?
How do I surrender my driving licence?
What happens after I have told the DVLA?
What happens if I do not tell the DVLA?
What if my medication affects my driving?
How can I challenge a decision?
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1. Do I need to tell the DVLA about my mental illness?
There are, of course, rules about many other illnesses and disabilities but
this factsheet only considers mental illness. You can find the rules on
other illnesses by searching the pages at https://www.gov.uk/healthconditions-and-driving.
If you are diagnosed with any of the conditions below and you intend to
drive you must tell the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA):1
severe anxiety or depression with significant memory and
concentration problems, agitation, behavioural disturbance or
suicidal thoughts
hypomania or mania (which can be symptoms of bipolar disorder
and schizoaffective disorder)
acute psychotic disorder
schizophrenia or long-lasting psychosis
personality disorders 2
You should tell the DVLA if you have any of these conditions when you are
applying for a licence or if you already hold a driving licence. If you already
hold a licence, then you should inform the DVLA right away and not wait
for your renewal date.
You do not need to tell the DVLA if you have a diagnosis of mild or
moderate anxiety or depression which is controlled and does not:

affect your memory or concentration


cause agitation
cause behavioural disturbance or
cause suicidal thoughts.
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2. How do I tell the DVLA?


If you already have a licence, you need to complete a medical
questionnaire. You can download the form from
https://www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving by searching for your
condition, or call the DVLA to ask them to send it to you. You also need to
fill out a form to give your consent for DVLAs doctors to contact your
doctor or a specialist. You can either post, fax or email these forms back
to Drivers Medical Group, DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1TU
Tel - 0300 790 6806 (Monday to Friday - 8am to 5.30pm, Saturday 8am
to 1pm)
Fax - 0845 850 0095
Email via https://www.gov.uk/contact-the-dvla
If the form provides a different address, you should send it to the address
that is written on the form.
2

If possible, the DVLA will reach a decision about your driving licence
based on the information you gave them. The DVLA may contact your
doctor if you have given your consent for this. Occasionally, the DVLA
may ask you to have a medical examination. They can also ask you to
take part in a driving assessment.
If you are applying for a new licence, you must declare if you have any of
the conditions listed on the application form. You should then also fill out
the medical enquiry form as described above.
You must let the DVLA know if your illness changes or if you receive a
new diagnosis.
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3. How do I surrender my driving licence?
If your doctor has already advised you not to drive, you may wish to give
up (surrender) your licence. This means that the DVLA does not need to
investigate your fitness to drive.
If you do surrender your licence, you can reapply for it when your condition
has improved and if you have your doctors support. In this case, you can
begin driving again as soon as the DVLA receive your application. The
DVLA will then consider whether you should continue to drive.
If the DVLA thinks that your condition does not currently meet the required
standards, they will take your licence away or refuse to give you a licence.
Therefore, if it seems unlikely that you will meet the standards,
surrendering your licence may make it easier for you to get it back later on
when you are well enough to drive.
You can download the 'Declaration of Voluntary Surrender' at the Gov.uk
website - https://www.gov.uk/giving-up-your-driving-licence. You can also
contact the DVLA to ask them to send a copy of this form to you. The
contact details are below Drivers Medical Group, DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1TU
Tel - 0300 790 6806 (Monday to Friday - 8am to 5.30pm, Saturday
8am to 1pm)
Email via https://www.gov.uk/contact-the-dvla
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4. What happens after I have told the DVLA?
As long as you provide full information, the DVLA can usually make a
decision within three weeks. If they need further information from you,
your doctor or other sources, or if youre applying for a bus or lorry licence,
they will try to complete the process within 90 days. Possible outcomes
are 3

The DVLA may let you keep your licence or give you a new one.
The DVLA may give you a licence that is valid for 1, 2 or 3 years.
The DVLA may take away (revoke) your licence or refuse your
application. This will happen if the DVLA does not consider you fit
to drive at the moment. In this case, they would give you an
explanation of the decision and advice on when you can reapply. It
should also send you a notice explaining your right to appeal this
decision. 3

The medical standards depend on what type of vehicle you want to drive.
They are higher for larger vehicles. The DVLA will base its decision on
how your symptoms affect your driving. 4 This will depend on whether you
are well or unwell at the moment, and the nature of your condition.
The information below outlines the guidance for an ordinary car or
motorcycle licence:5
Severe uncontrolled anxiety or depression
You should stop driving until the DVLA makes a decision. You will need to
be stable before you can start driving again. How long you need to be
stable for depends on your circumstances.
Acute psychotic disorders of any type
You must stop driving when you are unwell. The DVLA will consider
allowing you to drive again when:
you have been well and stable for at least 3 months,
you are willingly being treated,
you are free from side effects of medication that would impair your
driving, and
your doctor provides a report that says you are well enough to
drive.
Hypomania / Mania
You must stop driving when you are unwell. If you just have an episode of
hypomania or mania, the DVLA will consider allowing you to drive again
when:
you have been well and stable for at least 3 months,
you are willingly being treated,
you have an awareness of your condition (doctors call this 'insight'),
you are free from side effects of medication that would impair your
driving, and
your doctor provides a report that says you are well enough to
drive.
If you have had 4 or more periods of mania or hypomania during the last
12 months, then you need to be stable for at least 6 months before the
DVLA will give you a licence.

Long lasting schizophrenia or psychosis


You must:
have remained well and stable for at least 3 months,
be willingly being treated,
be free from side effects of medication that would impair your
driving, and
have a report from your doctor that says you are well enough to
drive.
If you have continuing symptoms, this does not necessarily mean that you
cant have a licence. To be allowed to have a licence, your ongoing
symptoms must be unlikely to cause significant problems with your
concentration or memory or that would distract you while driving.
Personality disorders
The DVLA will investigate whether you have a behaviour disturbance that
relates to driving or that may affect your road safety. If you do then it is
likely that you would not be able to apply for, or keep, your driving licence.
Other illnesses
If you have any other mental illnesses that affect your ability to drive
safely, you need to tell the DVLA.
For information on professional driving (taxi, heavy goods vehicle, public
services vehicle, fire engine, ambulance or police vehicle), please contact
the DVLA or see their website.

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5. What happens if I dont tell the DVLA?


It is an offence not to tell the DVLA that you have one of the above
illnesses if it has lasted or will last more than 3 months. 6 If you do not tell
the DVLA and continue to drive against the advice of your doctor then you
could receive a fine, especially if you caused an accident.
With your agreement, your doctor might discuss his or her concerns about
your ability to drive with your carers, relatives or friends. If your doctor
cannot persuade you to stop driving, they may share medical information
with the medical adviser at the DVLA without your consent.7
Whether or not you have told the DVLA about your illness, your insurance
cover could be affected if you continue to drive against the advice of your
doctor. Check your policy to see what it says.

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6. What if my medication affects my driving?
Some medication can affect your ability to drive. It is illegal to drive when
unfit due to drugs. 8 The law does not differentiate between recreational
drugs or prescribed drugs. This means that anyone found driving whilst
unfit due to any drug, including medication, could be prosecuted.
Many medications can impair your alertness, concentration and driving
performance. The effects may be particularly noticeable at the start of
treatment and after increasing the dose. It is important to stop driving
during this time if you are badly affected. 9
Different medications may affect your driving in different ways. Further
information on this is set out below: 10
Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines can make you tired and can affect reaction times.
Antipsychotics
Antipsychotics may make you tired, and can cause blurred vision. They
can also slow down your reactions and reflexes.
Antidepressants
People who have been prescribed antidepressants are at a statistically
higher risk of having a car accident, especially when they start taking the
drug. It is not clear whether this may be a result of their depression or due
to the medication itself. However, some antidepressants may make you
drowsy.
Anticonvulsants
Anticonvulsants can cause drowsiness and blurred vision when theyre
first taken.
Lithium
When first taken, lithium can cause drowsiness and confusion. This may
also affect your reaction time and reflexes. 11 There is also some evidence
that it can affect your ability to see in dark conditions. 12
Other medicines, either prescribed or over the counter, may also cause
drowsiness and/or affect driving ability (e.g. antihistamines). It is important
is read the label on any medication prescribed or to ask your doctor or
pharmacist about any possible side effects.
You can find out more about the effect of these medications in the
following factsheets:

Antipsychotics,
Antidepressants,
Mood Stabilisers
Benzodiazepines
Medication Choice and managing problems

These factsheets can be downloaded for free from


www.rethink.org/factsheets or you can call 0300 500 927 to ask for a copy
to be sent to you.
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7. How can I challenge a decision?
If you disagree with your doctor
If your doctor thinks that you shouldnt drive, you can ask for a second
opinion about your fitness to drive. If possible, it is best to try to get a
second opinion as soon as you can. The DVLA is likely to give your
doctors opinion a lot of weight and so it is better to get a second opinion
before the DVLA comes to a decision.
Once the DVLA has made a decision
If you disagree with a decision made by the DVLA regarding your licence,
you can appeal to your local magistrates' court within 6 months of the
decision.13 If you have further evidence about your fitness to drive, you
should bring it to the attention of the DVLA as soon as you can. You may
be able to resolve the issue without going to court.
If you do decide to appeal, the first step is to contact your local
magistrates court for further information on the procedure. You can find
your nearest court by searching online at
http://hmctscourtfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/. You need to inform the
DVLA that you are appealing and you may wish to seek independent legal
advice.
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Citizens Advice Bureaux offer free, confidential, impartial and


independent advice. Details of your local office can be found online at
Web - http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice.htm
The DVLA provides information about applying for a licence and
guidelines that apply to people with medical conditions wishing to drive.
Web - http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/
General Enquiries
Telephone 0300 790 6801
(Open 8:00am-7:00pm Mon-Fri,
8:00am-2:00pm Sat)
Address: Drivers Customer Services
Correspondence Team
DVLA
Swansea
SA6 7JL

Medical Enquiries
Telephone: 0300 790 6806
(Open 8:00am-5:30pm Mon-Fri,
8:00am-1:00pm Sat)
Address: Drivers Medical Group
DVLA
Swansea
SA99 1TU
Email:eftd@dvla.gsi.gov.uk

You can also contact the DVLA with specific enquiries via their email
webform at
https://emaildvla.direct.gov.uk/emaildvla/cegemail/dvla/en/index.html.

Road Traffic Act 1988, Sections 92 & 94


DVLA For Medical Practitioners - At a glance guide to the current
medical standards of fitness to drive 2013 Edition (March 2013) Chapter
4. Available at www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/medical/ataglance.aspx.
3
'Customer service guide for with a drivers medical condition (INF94)'
DVLA (2012) pg 3
4
As note 2 at pg 37
5
As note 4
6
As note 1, s94(3)
7
General Medical Council (2009) Confidentiality: Reporting concerns
about patients to the DVLA or DVA. Available at:
http://www.gmcuk.org/Confidentiality_reporting_concerns_DVLA_2009.pdf_27494214.pdf
[Accessed June 2013]
8
As note 1, s4
9
As note 2
10
Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry (11th ed) Taylor et al (2012), pg
635
11
Summary of Product Characteristics for Priadel Liquid [Accessed June
2013 at http://www.medicines.org.uk].
12
As note 10
13
As note 1, s100
2

Rethink Mental Illness 2013


Last updated August 2013
Next update August 2015
Version 6

This factsheet is available


in large print.
Last updated 01/10/2010