It is important to note that being diagnosed with epilepsy does not automatically disqualify you from driving in Ontario. In fact, many people diagnosed with epilepsy continue to drive legally without requiring a special license.
One of the greatest concerns of people newly diagnosed with epilepsy is whether or not they will be able to continue driving. One of the greatest concerns of people newly diagnosed with epilepsy is whether or not they will be able to continue driving. To many, driving is seen as the key to their independence. It allows them to freely travel wherever they please, whenever they please.
In Ontario, the Ministry of Transportation makes all decisions on the licensing of people with epilepsy based on the criteria listed below:
Who Can Drive in Ontario
- If anti-epileptic drugs appear to prevent your seizures
- You have had no seizures for the past 12 months
- Your medication does not cause drowsiness or poor coordination
- You are under medical supervision; your neurologist believes that you have been taking your medications regularly and that you will report any new seizures to him/her
- You have had only 1 seizure medically proven (through a full neurological examination) unrelated to epilepsy
- You have only had seizures while sleeping or directly after waking for over 5 years
- After being seizure-free for one year, your medication dosage (under the supervision of your neurologist) is reduced and a seizure occurs. You may continue to drive only after your prescribed dosage is elevated back to its original level.
Who Cannot Drive in Ontario
- Anyone who has had a seizure within the past 12 months
- If you are taking anti-epileptic drugs which have side effects of drowsiness or poor muscle control
- If you persistently drink excessive amounts of alcohol and do not fully comply with your physicians prescribed treatment
If your job requires you to drive a commercial vehicle, you must be seizure free for 12 months and not be prescribed any AEDs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is my obligation to the Ministry of Transportation?
You are required by law to immediately report to your neurologist and the Ministry of Transportation any changes in physical or mental health that could impair you while driving.
Can my neurologist or doctor report me to the Ministry of Transportation?
Section 203 of the Highway Traffic Act states that "every legally qualified medical practitioner shall report to the Registrar the name, address and clinical condition of every person sixteen years of age or over attending upon the medical practitioner for medical services, who in the opinion of such medical practitioner is suffering from a condition that may make it dangerous for such a person to operate a motor vehicle". This statute overrides the normal rule of patient/physician confidentiality.
What happens if my neurologist sends in a report?
If your neurologist decides that you are no longer fit for driving and sends in a report to the Ministry of Transportation, you will either receive a letter asking you to provide detailed medical information or receive a notice of a suspended license and a letter explaining the reasons behind the suspension.
It is important to note that many hospital/clinic physicians may call for a suspended license on initial observations (for safety measures) but after a thorough investigation, a suspension may not be justified. The reports from hospital/clinical physicians are treated with the same level of importance as a report from your own doctor.
Can I appeal the decision to suspend my license?
Yes! At any time during the process, you can appeal the decision. You have several options:
- The first step is to respond to the letter from the Ministry of Transportation with further medical information. In the letter containing the suspension, a detailed explanation will be provided, along with information about what is required for reconsideration. Speak with your neurologist to decide whether submitting further medical information will help further your case. Note: When submitting further medical information be sure to provide all the details of your condition (history, treatment, compliance with doctors' orders, control, and results from any tests). The ministry will not reinstate a license without complete disclosure of your condition and its stability.
- If you are not comfortable working with your neurologist, and would like to have the chance to discuss your case face to face with the ministry, you may set up an appointment for an administrative review. This is your chance to provide any information you feel was not considered or was not known during the original decision on your case. Another option is to put your case on paper and send it directly to the Ministry of Transportation for review.
- If all of the above steps have failed, you may proceed to a more formal hearing in front of the "License Suspension Board". At this hearing you may want formal representation (e.g. a lawyer), or you can submit the case in written form or represent yourself.
- If you are still unsatisfied with the outcome, you may take your case to the local county or district court.
What happens if I drive with a suspended license?
Driving without a license is a criminal offense and carries a hefty fine of $2000, an extended suspension, and sometimes even jail time. Keep in mind that once your license is suspended, your license plates are kept on police record. If you do get into an accident, whether or not caused by epilepsy, your insurance company will no longer cover the costs and you will most likely end up in a civil lawsuit, perhaps facing financial ruin.
Can Epilepsy Support Centre help me get my license back?
Unfortunately, Epilepsy Support Centre is not equipped financially or with the personnel (lawyers) to help people appeal for their licenses. What we can do is help you understand the appeal process and how and when to approach the ministry. We can also connect you with people who have had similar experiences and have gone through the process.