On a recent visit to the medical section of the DVLA offices in Swansea, where I was taking part in a charity advisory day, I learnt that there are a lot of drivers who fail to disclose health problems such as anxiety, cancer, strokes and arthritis to the DVLA. The reasons for this could be anything from people being scared their licence would be taken away to simply not knowing that they needed to. Unfortunately this means that significant numbers of people could be putting themselves and other road users at risk on a daily basis.
This is obviously an extremely worrying situation. And while the dangers to others is clear, there are also personal risks for those involved. If drivers fail to declare a medical condition that affects their driving they could receive a hefty fine of up to £1000 and be at risk of prosecution. They are also required to inform their insurance company, or face invalidating their policy and leaving them at serious financial risk in the event of an incident or claim.
But often, the health conditions that are listed as being important to notify to the DVLA – and there are over 100 of them - are minor and they do not necessarily prompt a driving restriction. They can sometimes be easily alleviated - wearing prescribed glasses to correct visual impairment, for example. Last year the DVLA received and assessed 700,000 medical notifications, with many of the drivers involved being able to retain their licence, even while their cases were being reviewed.
So, if you have a medical condition – or have a family member affected by one - and have so far not informed the DVLA and your insurance company, now might perhaps be a good time to check if you should do. The DVLA have a really useful website which includes an A to Z of all the medical conditions that require a notification to be made. To see details of the list of conditions, click here. The site also provides users the option to notify the DVLA of certain conditions online, or download the necessary paperwork for others.
The link is really easy to use. When exploring it, I looked at the listing for strokes, for example, and learnt that drivers need only inform the DVLA if their symptoms persist for more than a month after the stroke occurred. Otherwise, there is no need to. On all the conditions listed, the DVLA team try to make the process of notifying them of a medical condition as easy as possible. In addition to giving information online they also offer support over the phone and by post (see details below) and look to provide a decision on any condition within 6 weeks.
If you are in any doubt about your own, or your family member’s ability to drive when affected by a medical condition, a visit to your or their family doctor should definitely be your first port of call. From there, there are other sources of advice available both online and over the phone via the DVLA. Whichever route your take, do take action though. This is definitely one situation where safe is better than sorry.
DVLA drivers’ medical enquiries
Telephone: 0300 790 6806 - Monday to Friday, 8am to 5:30pm, Saturday, 8am to 1pm
Post: Drivers' Medical Enquiries, DVLA. Swansea, SA99 1TU
By Rebecca Ashton, IAM RoadSmart's head of driver behaviour