Driving and mental illness

You must tell the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you have certain mental illnesses. Or if your medication affects your driving. This section explains how and when to tell the DVLA about your illness or medication. It explains what could happen when you tell the DVLA and how to challenge a decision if you think it is wrong.

Overview

  • Having a mental illness does not always mean you cannot drive safely. But some drivers need to take extra care or may become too unwell to drive.
  • If you have certain illnesses you must tell the DVLA.
  • The DVLA will use the information you give them to decide if you should keep your licence.
  • They may ask you to have a medical examination or a driving assessment.
  • Sometimes they can give you a licence that is valid for 1 to 5 years.
  • Sometimes they will take your licence away (‘revoke’ it). You can appeal.
  • If your doctor says you are not fit to drive, you can give up your licence. This is also known as ‘surrendering’ your licence. You can reapply for it when your condition has improved.
  • If you continue to drive when your doctor says you shouldn’t, you could be charged with an offence.
  • If you receive some benefits you may be entitled to a Blue Badge.
  • You may be entitled to car tax exemption.

Informing the DVLA

When do I have to tell the DVLA about my mental health condition?

If you have, or think you may have, certain illnesses you must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). And you must let them know if your illness has got worse since you got your driving licence.

You must tell the DVLA if you have any of the mental health conditions below, and you are going to drive.

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Paranoid schizophrenia
  • Psychosis
  • Psychotic depression
  • Schizophrenia

You must also tell the DVLA if you have any of the mental health conditions below and they affect your ability to drive safely. Things that might affect your ability to drive safely include suicidal thoughts, poor concentration and feeling agitated or irritable a lot of the time. If you are not sure if your illness affects your ability to drive you must speak to your doctor.

  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Personality disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

The guidance about illnesses and driving are updated regularly. If you have other physical illness or conditions as well as a mental illness you can find the DVLA rules on illnesses here: www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving.

You must tell the DVLA if you have any of these conditions when you are applying for your first licence. And if you are over 70 and renewing your licence. You’ll be asked for this information in your application form. You do not need to contact DVLA separately.

If you already have a licence, you should tell the DVLA right away and do not wait for the renewal date.

Who else should I talk to about my mental illness and driving?

Your doctor
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you should also speak to your doctor. You should tell them about your illness to see if they think it will cause a problem with driving.

If your doctor thinks you should stop driving but you refuse, they have a duty to tell the DVLA. Even if you do not agree with this.

Your insurance company
Your insurance cover could be affected if you drive and have not told the DVLA about your condition. Or if your doctor tells you not to drive. You should check your policy to see what it says.

Your family and friends
You might find it useful to speak to your friends and family about how your illness affects your ability to drive safely. You can ask them for their help. And you can ask them to look after your vehicle, or vehicle keys, when you are poorly. This can help you to avoid driving when you are unwell.

You can find out more about ‘Insurance’ by clicking here.

Medication and driving

Will my medication affect my ability to drive?

Some prescription drugs are classed as ‘controlled drugs’. If you drive, and have above a certain limit of these drugs in your blood, you can be found guilty of an offence. You can be found guilty even if the drugs were not affecting your driving.

If you have been prescribed, or are using, any of the drugs in the list below you should speak to your doctor about how they will affect your driving.

  • Some benzodiazepines - Diazepam, Lorazepam, Temazepam, Clonazepam, Oxazepam and Flunitrazepam
  • Some painkillers - Morphine, Diamorphine, Tramadol and Ketamine
  • Methadone
  • Amphetamine
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine

You can drive after taking these drugs if:

  • you’ve been prescribed them and followed advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional, and
  • they aren’t causing you to be unfit to drive even if you’re above the specified limits.

Are there other medications that might affect my driving?

It is illegal to drive when unfit because of drugs. This includes prescription medication. If you drive when your medication makes this unsafe, the police could charge you with a driving offence.

Some medications can affect your alertness and concentration. This can affect how you drive. You may notice this more at the start of treatment or after increasing the dose. If your medication has a big effect on you, it is important to stop driving during this time.

Different medications may affect your driving in different ways. You should always talk to your doctor, or pharmacist, about how your medication might affect your driving.

Medications that can affect your driving include:

  • antidepressants,
  • mood stabilisers,
  • antipsychotics,
  • benzodiazepines, and
  • anti-convulsants.

You can find more information about:

  • Antipsychotics by clicking here.
  • Antidepressants by clicking here.
  • Mood Stabilisers by clicking here.
  • Benzodiazepines by clicking here.

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 www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving by searching for your condition. Or you can ask the DVLA to send it to you. Their details are in the Useful Contacts section of this page.

You need to fill out a form to give your agreement for the DVLA to contact your doctor or a specialist.

You need to send the form to the DVLA. The address is on the form.

The DVLA will try to decide if you are well enough to drive based on the information you send them. They may contact your doctor if you have agreed to this. They may ask you to have a medical assessment or to do a driving assessment.

Giving up my license

When would I give up my driving licence?

If your doctor has told you that you are not fit to drive, you can give up your licence. This is called ‘surrendering’ your licence. If you do this, the DVLA does not need to assess your fitness to drive.

In some situations, it may make it easier for you to get your licence back in the future if you surrender it.

If you surrender your licence, you can reapply for it when your doctor thinks your condition has improved. In this case, you can drive again as soon as the DVLA get your application.12 The DVLA will then decide if you should continue to drive.

You can download the 'Declaration of Voluntary Surrender' – from www.gov.uk/giving-up-your-driving-licence. Or you can ask the DVLA to send you a copy of this form. The contact details are in the Useful Contacts section of this page.

What happens after I tell the DVLA?

If you give the DVLA full information, they should decide within six weeks whether you can continue to drive or not. They will write to you if it is going to take longer.

You can keep driving while DVLA are considering your application as long as you are safe to drive. If you have any concerns, then you should contact your doctor or the DVLA for further advice. If you have any doubts about driving you should not drive.

The DVLA can either:

  • let you keep your licence or give you a new one,
  • give you a licence that is valid for 1, 2,3 or 5 years, or
  • take away your licence.

When the DVLA take away your licence this is known as ‘revoking’ your licence.

The DVLA will revoke your licence if they think that you are not fit to drive at the moment. This doesn’t mean that you will never be able to drive again. They will explain their decision and give you advice on when you can reapply.

How does the DVLA decide if I'm unfit to drive?

The medical standards the DVLA use will be different depending on what type of vehicle you want to drive. The standards are higher for larger vehicles. The DVLA will decide based on how your symptoms affect your driving.

You can speak to your doctor about how the DVLA will assess you. Or you can look at the DVLA guidance for medical professionals. This guidance is reviewed every 6 months. Chapter 4 shows how specific mental health conditions will be assessed:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/assessing-fitness-to-drive-a-guide-for-medical-professionals#history

Problems

What happens if I don’t tell the DVLA?

It is important to tell the DVLA about your mental health condition. If you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving, you could be fined up to £1,000. You may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.

How can I challenge a decision?

If you disagree with your doctor

When you send details to the DVLA about your illness you can usually carry on driving. But you can only do this if you are safe to drive. It is your responsibility to make sure that you are fit to drive.

But your doctor may say that you can’t drive at this time. You must not drive once your doctor has said you shouldn’t drive. Even if you disagree with them.

If you don’t agree with your doctor you can ask for a second opinion about your fitness to drive. Try to get a second opinion as soon as you can. You should try to get a second opinion before the DVLA makes a decision based on your doctor’s opinion.

You can also have your driving assessed in a confidential and objective test from organisations like the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and I Am Road Smart. They may charge a fee for providing an assessment. You can find their details in the Useful Contacts section of this page.

If you disagree with the DVLA

If the DVLA says you are not fit to drive and you don’t agree, you can try to challenge this. You must be able to provide relevant information that was not included in the original assessment. This might be evidence from another doctor. Or from an organisation that has assessed your driving.

It is best to try to resolve the issue without going to court. But you can appeal to your local magistrates' court within 6 months of the DVLA’s decision. This can be expensive and time consuming, and you may not be successful.

If you want to go to court, the first step is to contact your local magistrates’ court for information on how you do it. You can find your nearest court by searching online at www.gov.uk/find-court-tribunal. You need to tell the DVLA that you are appealing, and you may want to get independent legal advice.

Blue badge and disability benefit

I have a mental illness. Can I get a Blue Badge?

From the 30th August 2019 there is new legislation in place for who is eligible for a Blue Badge. These new rules include people with a mental illness.

The Blue Badge scheme helps you park closer to your destination if you’re disabled.

Who can automatically get a Blue Badge?

People on certain benefits are automatically able to get a blue badge. You have to be getting certain elements of some benefits to be eligible.

If you live in England you can get a Blue Badge automatically if:

  • you receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA),
  • you receive a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because you can’t walk more than 50 metres. This means that you must score 8 points or more under the ‘moving around’ activity of the mobility component, or
  • you receive the mobility component of PIP and have received 10 points specifically for the ‘planning and following journeys’ activity. That’s on the grounds that you are unable to undertake any journey because it would cause you overwhelming psychological distress.

You don’t automatically qualify if you received the mobility component of PIP and received 12 points.

You will need to provide proof of your benefits.

Can I still apply for a Blue Badge if I am not automatically eligible?

You may still be able to get a Blue Badge even if you don’t meet the automatic eligibility criteria.

You will have to apply through your local council. They will assess your eligibility. You can apply for a Blue Badge if:

  • you cannot walk without help from someone else or using mobility aids,
  • you find walking very difficult due to pain, breathlessness or the time it takes,
  • walking is dangerous to your health and safety,
  • you are constantly a significant risk to yourself or others near vehicles, in traffic or car parks,
  • you struggle severely to plan or follow a journey,
  • you find it difficult or impossible to control your actions and lack awareness of the impact you could have on others,
  • you regularly have intense and overwhelming responses to situations causing temporary loss of behavioural control,
  • you frequently become extremely anxious or fearful of public/open spaces, or
  • you received points for the mobility component of PIP. But scored more than 10 points or less than 10 points.

You will need to provide as much evidence as possible to support your application. Find the link below for what you can use:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/blue-badge-can-i-get-one/can-i-get-a-blue-badge.

Do I have to pay car tax if I receive a disability benefit?

You may be able to get free car tax if you receive certain benefits.

You can apply for free car tax if you receive any of the following:

  • higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or
  • enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

You can only apply for tax exemption if the vehicle is registered in your name. Or the name of your nominated driver. If the vehicle is registered in your nominated driver’s name the vehicle should only be used for your personal needs.

You still have to apply for car tax even if you don’t have to pay for your car tax. The first time you apply for car tax exemption you need to do this at the post office.

Unhappy with your GP or DVLA?

What if I am not happy with how my doctor or DVLA have treated me?

If you disagree with the decision of your doctor or DVLA then you can challenge their decision. You can find more information on how to do this in the section above.

You may not be happy with the service you have received from your doctor or the DVLA. Below are some ways you can try and fix these issues.

I am not happy with how my doctor has treated me.

PALS
If you are unhappy with your care, you could contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). PALS can try to help you with any problems or questions you have. There is more information on finding your local PALS in the useful contacts section below.

Advocacy
You can use a community advocate to help talk to your doctor. They can help to make your voice heard and deal with any problems. They may be able to help with writing letters or attending appointments or meetings. Advocates are not part of the NHS.

Complain
You could make a formal complaint if you are unhappy with your care. There will be details on the local trust website about how to make a complaint. You can get help with this from your local NHS Complaints Advocacy Service.

You can find more information about:

  • Advocacy by clicking here.
  • Complaints by clicking here.

I am not happy with how the DVLA has treated me.

You must first contact the department that you’ve been dealing with. This is the quickest way to resolve your issue.

If you aren’t happy with the response you can make a formal complaint. The details of where to complain is in the Useful Contacts section below.

Useful contacts

The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency – Medical enquiries
They give information about applying for a licence and guidelines that apply to people with medical conditions wishing to drive.

Telephone: 0300 790 6806 (Open 8:00am-5:30pm Mon-Fri, 8:00am1:00pm Sat)
Email via online form: www.live.emaildvla.service.gov.uk/w2c/en_gb/decisions/root
Address: Drivers Medical Enquiries, DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1TU
Website: www.dft.gov.uk/dvla

The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency – Complaints
This is the team you should contact if you want to make a formal complaint about the DVLA.

Make a complaint online: www.live.email-dvla.service.gov.uk/w2c/en_gb/decisions/A%20complaint%20or%20compl
iment%20about%20the%20service%20you%20have%20received
Address: Complaints Team, DVLA, Swansea, SA6 7JL
Website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/driver-and-vehicle-licensing-agency/about/complaints-procedure

Citizens Advice
They give free, confidential and independent advice on many different issues and areas of law. You can find your local office on their website.

Website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)
A registered charity that promote safety and the prevention of accidents. They can provide an honest, objective assessment of your driving.

Telephone: 0121 248 2099
Website: www.roadar.org.uk/drivers/driving-assessments.htm

I Am Road Smart
A registered charity that improves driver and rider skills through coaching and education.

Telephone: 0300 303 1134
Website: www.iamroadsmart.com

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