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Medical Conditions & Car Insurance

Certain medical conditions can impact your ability to safely drive and need to be disclosed to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) (or in Northern Ireland, to the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA)) and to your car insurance company.

The DVLA will assess you and your medical condition or disability, possibly by contacting your doctor, arranging for you to be examined, or having your taking a driving test, and decide whether you can keep driving. They may require you to get a new license, perhaps one that needs to be renewed more frequently; to adapt your vehicle; or to surrender your licence and stop driving.

Failure to report a medical condition can incur a fine of up to £1,000, invalidate your car insurance policy, and lead to you being prosecuted if you cause an accident. And worst of all, continuing to drive when you are impaired can pose significant risk to yourself and others on the road.

What Conditions Do I Need to Disclose?

You must notify the appropriate authorise if you develop certain medical conditions or disabilities or if certain conditions have worsened since you obtained your licence. Conditions that can affect your driving include:

  • visual impairment:

    The government has established minimum eyesight standards for drivers, requiring motorists to be able to (with contacts or glasses, if necessary) read a car number plate from a distance of 20 metres and to have a visual acuity of at least 0.5 (6/12) on the Snellen scale.

    Motorists must also have adequate fields of vision. The standards are more stringent for lorry and bus drivers. Your eyesight will be tested against these standards at the start of your practical driving test. If you can't pass the vision test (using corrective lens, if you need them), you'll automatically fail the test, the DVLA will be informed, and your licence will be revoked.

    If you need glasses or contacts to pass the test, you're legally required to wear them whilst driving. If you aren't wearing them and cause a collision, you can be fined up to £1,000, face prosecution and even prison time, and invalidate your insurance. You should have regular eye tests, particularly as you age, to detect worsening of your short or far-sightenedness or the development of cataracts, glaucoma, or night blindness, all of which you might not notice but can significantly impact your ability to safely drive.

    If your sight deteriorates or if you lose vision in one eye, you must immediately notify the DVLA and your insurance company.
  • epilepsy:

    Each individual with epilepsy will be assessed individually to determine whether or not they can safely drive and with which, if any, restrictions.

    People with asleep seizures will often be given licences that need to be renewed every three years, as opposed to the standard ten, while those who have experienced an awake, or breakthrough, seizure will need to notify their doctor, the DVLA, and their car insurance company immediately.

    Whether you can drive with epilepsy will depend on what medication you use and how well it controls your condition. Your licence may be suspended until you've gone six months without a seizure.

  • strokes:

    Anyone who suffers a stroke or transient ischaemic attack will not be permitted to drive for at least a month after the event. After that point, your doctor will assess you to see if you're capable of driving and eligible to have your licence restored.

  • physical disabilities:

    Advances in technology have enabled individuals with disabilities, including amputations, and spine and limb conditions, to continue driving with vehicle adaptations. The DVLA must be informed if a motorist needs an adapted vehicle and will amend their licence to reflect this.

  • other neurological conditions

    This includes conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, narcolepsy, traumatic brain injury, and aneurysms.

    In these cases, motorists are assessed individually. They may be given licences that must be renewed every year or three years, or have their licences suspended until they've gone six or 12 months without an incident (where applicable).

  • mental health conditions:

    In most cases of depression and anxiety, if a doctor has confirmed the driver doesn't have problems with concentration, agitation, or suicidal thoughts, the DVLA doesn't need to be informed. In more serious cases, such as with psychosis and chronic schizophrenia, motorists are assessed on a case by case basis and assessment will take into account how well their condition is managed by medication.

What happens after I notify the DVLA of my condition?

After you notify the DVLA of your medical condition, they will conduct a series of assessments to determine whether you can safely drive. The DVLA should give you a decision within six weeks and you should usually be able to continue driving while you wait.

To assess your fitness for driving, the DVLA may:

  • contact your doctor or consultant
  • arrange for you to be examined by a doctor
  • having you take a driving assessment, driving test, or eyesight test

After conducting the assessment, the DVLA will decide whether you:

  • can continue driving
  • can receive a shorter license, one which must be renewed every 1, 3, or 5 years, as opposed to the usual 10
  • can adapt your vehicle with special controls and continue driving
  • must stop driving and surrender your licence, for a period of time or indefinitely

If you disagree with the DVLA's decision, you may launch an appeal.

Driving With a Medical Condition : Licences & Insurance

You need to hold a valid license to obtain car insurance - if you have not disclosed a relevant condition you may find your licence invalid. Additionally, driving with a medical condition that you have not informed the DVLA and your insurer about can invalidate your car insurance, meaning you will be unable to receive compensation if you cause a collision, and may also face fines and prosecution for driving while uninsured.

If the DVLA has issued you a licence, with knowledge of your medical conditions, car insurers cannot refuse your coverage, raise your premiums, or increase your excess because of your health without evidence that you're an increased risk. This right is protected under the Equalities Act 2010.

Your insurer can, however, ask you questions about your condition, request written information about your medial condition and a copy of your driving licence or letter from the DVLA confirming you are able to drive. And they may raise your premiums or excess if they believe your likelihood of causing an accident has increased. If they raise your premiums, they have to inform you of the reason.

Driving a Car Adapted for Disabled Drivers

If you're driving an adapted vehicle, your car insurance company can increase your premiums to cover the increased cost of potential repairs. If you're driving a modified vehicle, you may want to seek out cover from a specialised insurer for disabled motorists.

Keeping a Car While You're Not Driving

If you need to surrender your licence temporarily and want to keep your car, you may still want to have it insured against theft. Some insurance companies offer insurance for vehicles that are off the road, policies known as laid up cover.

If while your licence is suspended you're keeping a car, not driving it, and it's uninsured and untaxed, you'll need to officially declare it as unused by taking out a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) and keeping it off the road, such as in a garage. If you don't obtain a SORN, you can face fines of up to £1000, prosecution, and possible seizure of your vehicle.

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