All states restrict driving licenses for anyone who has uncontrolled seizures or blackouts. However, according to the doctors at Epilepsy.com, "the risk of having a seizure-related traffic accident is greatly reduced in people who have been seizure-free for 12 months." Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reviews reports of impaired drivers on a case by case basis.
Drivers must be free of seizures or blackouts for at least six months before they're allowed to drive in Virginia. Anyone with a record of blackouts has to fill out a medical report before being licensed. A copy of the medical report can be found on Virginia's Dept. of Motor Vehicle website. (See Resources.) After the DMV receives the report, medical personnel review it and decide whether the person is capable of driving.
DMV's Medical Advisory board is composed of seven doctors who practice medicine in Virginia. The doctors specialize in different fields. In addition to reviewing cases, they advise DMV on different medical issues and enact guidelines and policies for medical review.
Sometimes exceptions are made to the requirement that a person be free of seizures for six months. Exceptions can be granted for seizures that occur because the person's doctor ordered a change in medication, seizures that are a result of an illness or seizures that only happen at night. Another exception can be made for someone who always experiences a long aura just before a seizure. Since the aura, which may consist of seeing bright lights, works as a warning, the person has time to pull off the road.
If medication controls a person's seizure, he may be allowed to drive but may have submit regular medical reports. If he does, the DMV notifies him approximately 60 days before a report is due. Other restrictions may also apply. Drivers who aren't satisfied with DMVs decisions can file an appeal in circuit court.
According to Virginia law, reporting a patient to DMV isn't a violation of the doctor-patient relationship as long as the doctor isn't deliberately trying to harm his patient. The DMV isn't allowed to release information about who reported an impaired driver to them, if the information came from a relative or a doctor. Unlike some states, doctors aren't required to report patients they treat for epilepsy.
DMV follows up on all reports it receives regarding drivers who may be impaired. They can require drivers to send in a medical or vision report from their doctor, pass a road skills test or pass a driver's license exam. Drivers have 30 days to comply. Those who don't have their licenses suspended.
Commercial licenses aren't issued to anyone who has epilepsy or takes anti-seizure medication. Exceptions are made for those who have a known cause for the seizures and it has been corrected. Drivers have to be free of seizures, and not taking any medicine to control them, for two years before they can be given a commercial license.
Lani Thompson began writing in 1987 as a journalist for the "Pequawket Valley News." In 1993 she became managing editor of the "Independent Observer" in East Stoneham, Maine. Thompson also developed and produced the "Clan Thompson Celiac Pocketguides" for people with celiac disease. She attended the University of New Hampshire.