Driving with a mental health condition
Most young drivers will suffer some kind of anxiety when learning to drive or in the first few years of taking to the road. For most, it won’t affect your ability to drive – it is likely to be a matter of finding ways of coping with stress or fear of the unknown. If this is the case, we’ve created some top tips to help you manage anxiety while driving.
If you suffer from a mental health condition you may be wondering what your rights are around driving. We’ve pulled together some simple advice to point you in the right direction – you’ll also find much more detailed information on the DVLA and Mind websites, but we hope this will give a handy intro to some of the questions you might ask.
Do I have to tell the DVLA about my mental health condition?
We recommend that you seek advice from your doctor as to whether you need to inform the DVLA as they have specific guidance that they follow. There are certain conditions that you must inform the DVLA about, such as bipolar disorder; paranoid schizophrenia; psychosis; psychotic depression; schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia. There are other conditions that only need to be declared if it affects your ability to drive.
More information is available on the Mind website, however their advice is also to speak to your doctor first.
How to I tell the DVLA?
If you’re applying for your first driving licence, or a new licence, there is a section of the form that asks about your health – this is where you’d include details about your mental health condition, if you need to declare it.
If you already have a licence and have been diagnosed with a mental health condition that needs to be declared, or you have previously declared a condition that has got worse, then you will need to fill in a DVLA Medical Questionnaire (M1 online form). You’ll also need to sign the form to say that you are happy for the DVLA to contact your doctor for details of your medical condition.
What happens next?
The DVLA aims to advise you as to whether you can drive, or continue to drive, within 3 weeks of receiving your form. In some situations they may request further information from your doctor, ask that you attend a medical assessment locally, or ask you to take a driving assessment (this is less likely, as these tend to only be requested for a physical condition, such as visual impairment).
Once the DVLA has made a decision they will send you a letter confirming one of the following:
- You can have a new driving licence, or continue to drive on your current licence; or
- You can have a driving licence for a period of time (e.g. 1, 2 or 3 years), to be reviewed at the end of the period; or
- You should stop driving, or are not approved for a driving licence.
Can I drive while I’m waiting to hear from the DVLA?
If you’re applying for your first licence, or are waiting for a new licence, the short answer is “no”. However, if you’re already driving, your doctor will advise as to whether you are able to continue driving until the DVLA have assessed your medical information and made a decision.
What if I don’t agree with the DVLA’s decision?
Firstly, it’s an offence to drive without a licence, so you mustn’t drive if your licence has not been granted. If they make the decision to revoke, or deny you a licence, they must explain why the decision was made; advise when and if you can apply for a new licence; and let you know about your right to appeal the decision.
This would involve making a written application, with supporting evidence to your local Magistrates Court within 6 months on your licence being refused or revoked. As with any legal challenge, it is worth seeking independent legal advice, at your own expense, to check whether you are likely to have a case for reversing the decision.
What if I’m taking medication for my mental health condition?
As with any medication, there are certain medicines that can make you drowsy or cause side-effects that may affect your ability to drive. It is best to seek the advice of your doctor as to whether you should drive while taking your medication. Mind have a section of their website which talks in more detail about taking medication while driving, which offers more detailed advice.