H is for... Health!
How does your health link in with your driving?
Your health and driving is so important. If your health deteriorates then you may be unsafe to drive and it’s important for us to recognise this. There are many implications and consequences, and we’ll have a look at these in this blog.
Short term health conditions
We'll look at long term health conditions further below, but it's important to note that short term health conditions can play a big part in our driving.
Some short term health conditions could include;
- A simple cold or the flu - could reduce your concentration, awareness, and alertness
- A neck/shoulder/back injury - making it difficult to turn your head, make effective observations, and check your blind spots
- Being tired - this is often underestimated, and can have fatal consequences whilst driving. If you feel sleepy, you should consider not driving at all. If you're already driving, pull over to get some rest
- Breaking your arm - although you may not feel as though it would restrict your driving, it could affect your ability to control your vehicle in an emergency, and your insurance is unlikely to cover you to drive whilst in a cast. Also, any painkillers you may be on, may affect your ability to drive safely
- Infections - this could be an ear, chest, bladder infection etc. Infections can make you feel drowsy and reduce your concentration. Antibiotics could also make you feel drowsy
- Alcohol - it's important to remember that drinking the night before could still mean you're over the limit the next morning
What medical conditions need reporting to the DVLA?
The DVLA have a link (above) which lists the most common types of health and medical conditions. There are many conditions ranging from diabetes, epilepsy, heart attacks, spinal injuries, depression, recent surgery, cancer, etc. If your condition isn't listed, you must contact the DVLA.
If you click on a condition, it tells you whether you need to report it.
- Some conditions say ‘You must report this if it affects your ability to drive’ – so if your ability is affected in any way, you must report your condition to the DVLA.
- Some conditions say ‘You must report this to the DVLA’ – this is regardless of whether it affects your ability to drive.
- Some conditions say ‘You do not need to report this condition’ – meaning you do not have to report your condition to the DVLA.
You must tell the DVLA if your condition gets worse.
However if you feel your condition is affecting your ability to drive, even if it’s not listed as a reportable condition, you should seriously consider whether it is safe for you to carry on driving. Your GP will be able to advise you on whether you should drive as they are the experts in your medical condition, and a driving instructor would be more than happy to do an assessment to see how safe your driving is.
You must also report any medical conditions to your insurance company - the DVLA won't do this automatically.
What happens when I report a condition to the DVLA?
You’ll usually get a decision within 6 weeks.
The DVLA might:
- contact your doctor or consultant
- arrange for you to be examined
- ask you to take a driving assessment, an eyesight test, or a driving test
You can usually keep driving while the DVLA are considering your application.
Often, you'll receive a letter saying you're clear to drive. Some conditions they may want to monitor, and the DVLA may give you a restricted licence - meaning your licence lasts for either 1, 2, 3, or 5 years - where the DVLA will review your medical condition and may contact your consultant again to see if you're still safe to drive.
For some conditions, the DVLA may recommend you have certain adaptations to your car to help you drive safely.
When should I stop driving?
You should stop driving;
- when you feel unsafe, or not in control of the vehicle
- when a consultant or GP tells you not to drive
- when your optician tells you not to drive
- when your medication is affecting your driving
The DVLA also says;
You must give up your licence if either:
- your doctor tells you to stop driving for 3 months or more
- you do not meet the required standards for driving because of your medical condition
You must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres. Driving instructors must be able to read a number place from 27 metres away.
At the start of your practical driving test you have to correctly read a number plate on a parked vehicle.
If you can’t, you’ll fail your driving test and the test won’t continue. The examiner will inform the DVLA your licence will be revoked. When you reapply for your driving licence, the DVLA will ask you to have an eyesight test with DVSA. This will be at a driving test centre.
It is important that if you need to use glasses or contact lenses for reading a number plate from 20 metres, that you use these glasses or contact lenses whilst driving.
Not being able to see properly and clearly whilst driving can have numerous implications;
- you may misjudge speed and distance of other vehicles
- you may not see serious incidents happening ahead of you
- you may not see a child running out in front of you
- you may not see road signs with important information such as lane closures, diversions, speed limits, etc.
You don't need to tell the DVLA if you are short sighted, long sighted, or colour blind. However if you have a specific condition that affects your eyesight such as glaucoma, you must tell the DVLA.
In 2016, 7 people were killed and 63 were seriously injured in collisions on Britain's roads, where defective eyesight was a contributory factor.
Whilst some medical conditions may not need to be reported to the DVLA, you may be on certain medications - this could be long term, or short term medications. You must be aware of how the medications affect you before you drive. Your doctor will also be able to tell you whether the medication is likely to make you drowsy. If the medication does make you drowsy or not completely alert, you must not drive. If you are involved in an incident or collision, you could be prosecuted for driving whilst unfit through drugs.
What happens if I don't report the condition to the DVLA or my insurance?
Not reporting a condition to the DVLA when you should have done can result in a fine of up to £1000.
If your insurance finds out that;
- you have a medical condition which was not reported to the DVLA
- you have a medical condition that affects your ability to drive safely
- that you should not have been driving
- you did not report the condition to the insurance company
Then your insurance would most likely be invalid. This means your insurance will not pay out compensation/reward/loss of earnings to you, nor will they pay out for repairs to your vehicle. This could then be very costly for you if you have to have time off work and repairs done to your vehicle, which would come out of your own pocket.
Your GP, consultant, and optician also have a responsibility to inform the DVLA if they believe you are unfit or unsafe to drive. This would result in the DVLA getting in contact with you to discuss this further.
What happens if I drive whilst I am unsafe or unfit to drive?
If you drive whilst you are unfit or unsafe to drive, quite simply, anything could go wrong! You could be involved in a minor incident only involving yourself and your vehicle - such as mounting a kerb where no-one is walking on the pavement, not seeing road markings, hitting walls/fences etc. You could be involved in more serious incidents such as not seeing vehicles in front braking and colliding with them, failing to react quickly enough to brake in an emergency, swerving and hitting other vehicles, mounting kerbs and hitting pedestrians, and many, many other incidents and collisions.
If you have a serious collision, it is likely that the police and ambulance will be called. They will submit their reports to insurance companies and the DVLA if they feel you should not have been driving due to a medical condition or lack of eyesight.
If the DVLA are informed they can, and will, revoke your licence if they find out about a medical condition that is affecting your ability to drive safely.
You could also be prosecuted for things like (and the possible consequences);
- Causing death by dangerous driving
Up to 14 years imprisonment / Unlimited fine / Min. 2 year disqualification / 3-11 points
- Driving while unfit through drink or drugs (including prescription medication)
6 months imprisonment / Unlimited fine / Obligatory disqualification / 3 to 11 points - Dangerous driving
2 years imprisonment / Unlimited fine / Obligatory disqualification / 3 to 11 points
- Careless and inconsiderate driving
Unlimited fine / Discretionary disqualification / 3 to 9 points
- Failure to have proper control of vehicle
£1,000 fine / Discretionary disqualification / 3 points on your licence
- Driving without insurance (as you would be uninsured for driving whilst not medically fit)
Unlimited fine / Discretionary disqualification / 6 to 8 points
- Driving after refusal or revocation of licence on medical grounds
6 months imprisonment / Unlimited fine / Discretionary disqualification / 3 to 6 points
It can be difficult to know when to stop driving, and there is no official limit. It's also difficult because we often don't realise how bad we have been getting over time, and it's sometimes down to our family to tell their elderly family members when to stop driving.
When you are 70 years old, your licence will expire and you have to renew it, and declare any new or worsening medical conditions and eyesight. But up until then, you are free to carry on driving. Even once you renew your licence, there is nothing stopping you from driving as your health deteriorates.
It's such a difficult decision to make, especially if you've had a clean driving record for the past 40 years or so, and being able to drive means being able to stay more independent.
As we get older, we may experience new issues that may indicate that it's time to give up driving. Here are some examples of such issues;
- Deteriorating eyesight and hearing
- New and existing medical conditions that may be worsening
- Pain (especially neck, back, arm and leg pains)
- Reduction in strength and co-ordination
- Slower reactions and reactions