Millions of drivers have failed to disclose health problems to the DVLA, putting themselves and other road users at risk. These medical conditions include visual impairment, heart conditions and diabetes, all of which can have an impact on driving. The penalties for not declaring this information to the relevant authorities can cost you dearly - up to a £1,000 fine and the risk of prosecution if the driver is involved in an accident.
It seems that this withholding of information is not intentional, with many motorists presuming their condition did not affect their driving ability. However, worryingly, some did not declare a medical condition to the DVLA out of concern that their licence would be taken away.
If you have a condition which you need to declare, you also need to inform your insurer. You may find that your premiums go up or that you need to seek a specialist provider. However, if you fail to tell them about your condition, it could invalidate your policy – and could land you in a situation that’s much worse, should you end up in a car accident.
If you are concerned that you may fall into this category of motorist, a good place to start is with your family doctor. Conditions that the DVLA needs to know about include Angina, dementia, dizziness, blood pressure, cataracts, vertigo, seizures and more. For the full list, see the government's guide to all health conditions and driving.
If you disclose a medical condition and need to surrender your licence, do so voluntarily as 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are different rules for when you can drive again depending on if your licence was voluntarily surrendered, or if it was revoked or refused for medical reasons. You can reapply for your licence when your doctor says you meet the medical standards for driving.
Your sight is another issue that requires you to make a declaration. If your vision deteriorates – for instance, you develop cataracts or night blindness – you must inform the DVLA immediately.
Don’t forget to consider any medication that may impair your ability to drive – and that may be against the law.
If you're on a prescribed medication that affects your driving ability the health professional should advise you on how long you should stay away from the wheel.
Motorists who are diagnosed with diabetes will have to contact the authorities, depending on the way the condition is treated. For instance, if the diabetes is managed with insulin, the driver will be issued with a licence for one, two or three years, depending on the severity of the condition.
The DVLA does not require notification if the diabetes is managed by tablets/non-insulin-based medicine or diet, unless an episode of hypoglycaemia has been experienced within the last 12 months.
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Older drivers especially vulnerable
But it is not just medical conditions that can affect your license; as you age, the more likely you are to suffer from poor health – and this can affect your ability to drive safely.
People’s driving skills can change over time and as people get older there may come a point when they will no longer be as safe as they once were on the roads.
In fact, according to Freedom of Information Act data obtained by comparison website Confused.com, nearly 17,000 motorists aged 70+ have had their driving licence revoked or refused due to a medical condition in the last year alone.
“The UK has an aging population which brings with it many benefits,” explained Catherine Junor, a motoring expert at law firm Higgs & Sons.
“According to the RAC, Britain’s oldest driver is aged 108 and is one of 236 drivers aged 100 plus on our roads. However, older drivers need to be aware that their many years’ experience could actually count against them should they be involved in even the most innocuous motoring incident.”
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When an elderly motorist is involved in an incident to which the police are called, if there are concerns about his or her driving ability they may find themselves reported to the DVLA by the police. Issues such as infirmity and failing eyesight may be flagged up by the police and may lead to a driver having their driving licence revoked, subject to a medical questionnaire completed by the driver and returned to the DVLA.
“If the motorist is prosecuted for a motoring matter through the courts and there is evidence of infirmity, the court has discretion to order the driver to re-sit their test, ancillary to any other penalty imposed upon them for a motoring matter,” said Ms Junor.
Currently, the law requires drivers to renew their licence on reaching the age of 70 – at which time they must confirm that no disease or disability is present. Thereafter, a three-year licence is issued, subject to the satisfactory completion of medical questions on the application form.
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“We understand that driving gives older motorists the freedom and independence that they require,” said Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com.
“However, there will come a point when we may not have the ability to be a safe driver and that might be down to age or any number of other reasons. And as motorists we all need to recognise the importance of the need to be physically and mentally fit.
“Your safety and the safety of other road users are the most important things to consider. If you’re concerned that your driving is not as good as it was, don’t wait for an accident to convince you to stop.”
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