Are you one of 3.4 million driving illegally because of your health?

Elderly man driving car in traffic
Elderly man driving car in traffic

A new study has revealed that there's a real risk that 3.4 million people are driving with a medical condition that they are supposed to have told the DVLA about. If you have one of these conditions, and don't let them know, you are driving illegally and could be prosecuted.

The study, by Direct Line, calculated that almost one in ten people have a notifiable condition - which is around 3.4 million of the 35.3 million drivers. The conditions include visual impairments, diabetes, heart conditions or epilepsy. The study found that 9% of drivers have a heart condition, 8% have had a stroke or mini stroke, 7% have diabetes, 7% have a physical disability, 5% have a brain injury, 3% have a visual impairment, and 1% suffer from epilepsy.

When asked why they hadn't made the disclosure 51% said it was because they presumed their condition didn't affect their ability to drive, while 14% said they didn't know they were meant to, 5% didn't see why they should, and 4% had never thought of it. One in 20 didn't mention it to the DVLA out of fear they would have their licence taken away.

The consequences

If you don't let the DVLA know you could be fined up to £1,000 and risk prosecution. Admittedly, there's every chance that you won't be caught or prosecuted, because last year only 64 people were found guilty and sentenced in court for offences relating to non-disclosure of medical issues. That's around 1% of the total who are likely to be guilty of the offence.

However, that's no excuse for non-declaration, because there's the very real risk you could harm yourself or others, and if you are involved in an accident the consequences could be even more severe.

Gus Park, director of motor at Direct Line, commented: "With some medical conditions having more of an impact on driving ability than being over the drink-drive limit, it's frightening that almost one in ten motorists drives with a notifiable medical condition they have not reported to the DVLA. It's clear that there's no deterrent for those flouting the law in this way, as shown by the small amount of people convicted.

Park continues: "With the majority presuming their condition will not affect their driving ability, we urge motorists not to be complacent when it comes to declaring medical conditions. If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you should inform the DVLA, call them to find out. Not declaring a medical condition is illegal, puts you and other road users at risk and can potentially lead to fatal consequences."

What should you do?

If your doctor has told you that you need to stop driving, you will need to surrender your licence to the DVLA. Not everyone is eligible to continue to drive while their renewal application is in process, so check with your doctor and the DVLA.

If you hand over your licence voluntarily, it may mean you can start driving again sooner. There are different rules for when you can drive again depending on if your licence was voluntarily surrendered, or if it was revoked or refused for medical reasons.

The DVLA will send you a letter when your licence is taken away or surrendered, or if your application for a driving licence is refused. This tells you if there's a period of time you need to wait before getting a new licence. You can then reapply eight weeks before the end of this period.

You can reapply for your licence when your doctor says you meet the medical standards for driving. If you are eligible to reapply, you will need to complete a D1 application form and the form for your medical condition and send them to DVLA. You may also need to send evidence of your fitness to drive, but the letter from DVLA will tell you if this is the case.

If you have a medical condition and are unsure if it should be disclosed to the DVLA, then you can check online.