The medical conditions that might make you unsafe to drive

Medical conditions

Thousands of car owners could be driving with medical conditions that make it illegal for them to be in charge of a car. The Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) lists almost 200 complaints that sufferers should inform it about before taking to the road. These range from the obvious such as epilepsy and blackouts to slightly less evident such as snoring, eating disorders and depression.

One in four drivers is said to suffer from a notifiable condition. However, research suggests 10 per cent of those don’t report their ailment. Anyone who drives with one of the highlighted conditions without informing the DVLA could face a fine of up to £1000. They also risk having any insurance claims refused. Here are the more common, less obvious complaints drivers should be aware of.


Anyone who snores excessively may have a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). This is when the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax causing the airways to narrow. The result is loud snoring, laboured breathing and repeated short periods of interrupted breathing.

These repeated interruptions can lead to sufferers feeling very tired. Research shows someone deprived of sleep through OSA can be up to 12 times more likely to be involved in a car crash, the NHS says. Hardly surprising then that OSA is on the DVLA list.


One in every 16 people in the UK suffers from diabetes. Type 2, where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to control glucose levels in the blood, is the most prevalent. Sufferers of this generally take tablets to manage their condition. They should consult their GP over whether to inform the DVLA.

Type 1 diabetes is where the body doesn’t produce any insulin and sufferers rely on insulin injections to control blood sugar. These patients can suffer from hypoglycaemic attacks where their blood sugar becomes dangerously low and they must inform the DVLA.

See how drivers could be a safety risk by not having an eye test

Over-the-counter medicines

Medical conditions

It’s not just illegal drugs that can affect your ability to drive

Everyone knows that drinking and driving is against the law. But not as many people are aware that some over-the-counter medicines can make some people drowsy. A survey conducted by road safety charity Brake with Direct Line found that three in 10 drivers are unaware that some hayfever and allergy medication can impair driving. More than half are unaware of the risks of some decongestants. And four in 10 don’t know that some cough medicines such as Benylin can affect driving.

A study in Norway found that the risk of being involved in a road crash could triple in the week after being prescribed medicinal drugs. That increased in users prescribed opiate painkillers and some tranquilizers.


According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in six people experience a common mental health problem every week. Drivers must inform the DVLA if they have a mental health condition that might affect their driving. Along with anxiety and eating disorders, drivers suffering depression should only inform the DVLA if their condition affects their driving. Mental health charity Mind advises drivers to discuss this with their GP.

What drivers should do

Brake advises drivers to check carefully the label of any medication they’re taking. It added: “Never drive if a label or health professional says you may be affected. If a medication affects your driving, stop driving, not your medication.” Director of policy and research for road safety charity IAM Roadsmart, Neil Greig, said: “Drivers should not be afraid to keep the DVLA informed about their medical conditions. Almost 90 per cent of those who have notified the DVLA get their licence back when it is safe for them to drive again.”

Find the official list of health conditions that could affect you driving here

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