Epilepsy and Driving

In California, physicians must, by law, report patients with epilepsyto the DMV. Patients need to be reported only at diagnosis and not if they have subsequent seizures. The reasoning should be obvious. Patients otherwise would never inform their physicians of a seizure. The DMV will usually allow patients to drive after being seizure-free for 3 months, occasionally 6 months, and are more willing to do so if the patient is taking an antiepileptic drug.

A separate issue is what to do when patients have been seizure-free and are tapering their medications. According to a study presented at the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, epileptologists were asked what their routine practice was. About half advised no driving at all during the 3 to 6 months after tapering is complete and patients are off therapy. During the first year of withdrawal, patients with epilepsy overall have a seizure risk of 15%. If the patient drove 30 minutes per day, the average seizure rate would be about 0.3% for that year. Further, most of the responding physicians found that recommending that a patient restrict or minimize driving often results in their decision to remain on treatment.

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