It is important to stress that whilst we can offer advice as to your suitability to drive the final decision lies with the DVLA. Furthermore it is up to you the patient to inform the DVLA of any medical conditions that may affect driving. The DVLA will then send you a questionnaire to fill out and may contact your specialist for an opinion. If you continue to drive without informing the DVLA your insurance would be invalid and could lead to you being prosecuted. The advice given below applies only to a standard car and motorcycle licence; the regulations for LGV and PCV licences are far stricter and you would need to check with the DVLA carefully.
There are several potential complications that mitochondrial patients may develop that can influence driving ability;
Some patients with MELAS or MERRF may develop seizures. If you have an epileptic seizure you cannot drive for at least six months, but additional seizures or a predisposing factor such as MELAS or MERFF makes this more likely to be one year. It does not matter if the seizure happens during the day or at night. It is your responsibility to inform the DVLA and your insurance company. After the specified time period (six or twelve months), as long as you do not have any further seizures you would be able to reapply for a licence. It does not matter if you are on anti- epileptic medication or not. The only exception to this is in the rare case that patients only ever have seizures at night. If you have had exclusively night-time seizures for three years (with none during the day), you can re-apply for a licence to drive only during the day.
All drivers must be able to read (with the aid of glasses or contact lenses if worn) a number plate at 20 metres. The standards are stricter for LGV/PCV licence holders. Certain groups of our patients, particularly those with LHON or OPA1, can suffer a significant loss of visual acuity and may need to advise the DVLA of this.
Patients with difficulties in moving the eyes (CPEO) are not prevented from driving unless this leads to significant double vision. Car licence holders can continue to drive as long as the double vision can be corrected with prisms or with an eye patch.
Another common problem for our patients is the development of drooping eyelids (ptosis). There are no specific rules about this, but if vision is obscured by your eyelid then driving may not be safe. In these cases you would need to consult the DVLA for advice.
Profound deafness is not a bar to holding a car licence, but holders of LGV/PCV licences must be able to prove that they can communicate in an emergency by speech or with a MINICOM device.
Patients on insulin treatment for diabetes must be able to recognise the onset of a hypoglycaemic event and meet the vision requirements above. Normally only a temporary licence of 1 to 3 years is issued with the need to renew. Patients on tablet or diet controlled diabetes should let the DVLA know but are able to continue driving as long as other requirements are met (eg vision).
Weakness and inco-ordination
The requirements are that any disability is not “likely to affect vehicle control because of impairment of co-ordination and muscle power.” This is obviously difficult to define and you may need to contact the DVLA for advice.