Will I Lose My Driver's License?
November 19, 2009 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Do I have any options with the California Department of Motor Vehicle regarding having had seizures and losing my license?

I have to send in form to DMV filled out by doctor about my medical history. DUH! If I take this to neurololgist I've seen, he obviously is going to fill out what has recently happened regarding seizures I have had. Having seizures = no license........or at least that is what I've been told. Is there a probability factor here. I have written a letter explaining my case. Will that have any influence or will I be tilting at windmills (or whatever the adage is)

Med history - I had a skull fracture 20+ years ago. Got into yoga as a means of healing the trauma. 3 years ago I had what doctors would decribe as a seizure and have had 3 since that time. Each time I had blacked out and was taken to emergency room. I saw a neurologist the first time it happened and got checked out. All tests were clear. I am seeing him now and going through all the tests again to make sure of what it isn't and then moving forward from that baseline.

The doctors attribute the seizures to the head injury. Whether they are or not, I am confident I can manage these and heal what is going on. I also feel deep down they are passing.

My worst fear is that it is a black/white decision and that my license will be taken away. I live in Los Angeles, am a yoga teacher, have to drive and be at place in a timely fashion. I am also just getting a business going.
posted by goalyeehah to Grab Bag (12 answers total)
As far as I know this is a black and white decision. No one wants you passing out behind the wheel.
posted by sanka at 5:04 PM on November 19, 2009

Have you seen this (PDF) table?

Seems it's not 100% cut and dried but your doctors need to report that your seizures are controlled and (in most cases) you need to have been seizure free for 6 months.

I can understand your frustration, but please do what you need to do to get the seizures medically controlled, and don't trust your own safety and everyone else's to a "deep down feeling"!
posted by crabintheocean at 5:37 PM on November 19, 2009

And I assume you've already seen this from the California DMV?
posted by crabintheocean at 5:39 PM on November 19, 2009

Here's the relevant information from the California DMV. It looks like you're subject to Type III probation (depending on when your last seizure was)

Medical probation Type III is for drivers who have achieved six or more months of control, but due to contributing factors there is a slight possibility of another seizure. Medical probation Type III requires the driver to report, in writing, on a regular basis to the department on the status of his/her disorder. The Medical Probation Reporting form (DS 346) is used by drivers on Type III probation, and the driver must sign the form under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the information provided is true and correct. (See Appendix B.) The decision to place a driver on Medical probation Type III should be based on the driver's medical history and established reliability. The main medical factors to consider include, but are not limited to:
* Seizure type
* Seizure manifestations
* Seizure, medical and lifestyle history
* The seizure-free period prior to the last episode

The major reliability factor to consider is the driver's likelihood of complying honestly. Medical Probation Type III should be considered self-monitoring and should not be imposed if the driver has exhibited past evidence of:

* Noncompliance
* Withholding information from a physician or the department
* Inconsistent statements

Given that last part, I'd say you're better off in the long run if you submit the form accurately. On the plus side, even if your license is put on hold it will likely be temporary and you'll be back on the road within a matter of months.
posted by stefanie at 5:39 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

The doctors attribute the seizures to the head injury. Whether they are or not, I am confident I can manage these and heal what is going on. I also feel deep down they are passing.

Unfortunately, this isn't really an acceptable reason for you being able to drive. We've decided as a society (as a matter of law in California) that people who have seizures pose unacceptable risks when behind the wheel.

As others above point out, you may not have your license taken away automatically. If you work as a yoga instructor, you might find that public transit coupled with bicycling are acceptable, if not perfect, substitutes for having a car. You'll give up some freedom, but it will be better than nothing.

I feel for you: LA is a horrible place to be without an automobile. Good luck.
posted by kdar at 5:44 PM on November 19, 2009

I'd like information, gang. Not judgement
posted by goalyeehah at 5:49 PM on November 19, 2009

Thanks. I knew MeFite's would come through!
posted by goalyeehah at 5:51 PM on November 19, 2009

As stefanie says, you really need to be completely honest here, or you will lose all credibility in the eyes of the DMV. Go to your neurologist, give him the form, and talk to him honestly about what has happened and your feelings here. Do not conceal seizures or other events of relevance. Ultimately, either your seizures are controlled, at which point you can receive medical probation or have no action taken against your license at all, or they aren't, at which point you can't drive until they are.

This isn't a judgment thing, it's a matter of being honest with yourself about how your medical condition affects you. You've had 3 seizures in 3 years. Your safety is just as much at risk here as anybody else's if you have another seizure while you're behind the wheel. Your "confidence" that you can manage your seizures is of little interest to the DMV, your neurologist's medical opinion is.

You may also find the California DMV discussions on the epilepsy.com forums to be of use--it looks like many of the posters there have been through exactly the same process you're starting now. Good luck!
posted by zachlipton at 6:13 PM on November 19, 2009

nthing honesty, I know someone from a different state where that eventually worked, though YMMV.

As to the danger to you and others, that is a very serious concern, but it is also true that there are many people with cardiac, blood pressure, Rx, diabetic or other exposures for passing out behind the wheel as well. Epilepsy is not unique.

But I think you should steer a course, with the help of your doctor, that both safeguards yourself and others, and also gives you the best chance for the *eventual* reinstatement of your license. As for the *need* for your license (business, etc.) in the case I heard of that was of little interest to the State (NJ). Their primary concern was for the safety of the public, but neither did they believe that epilepsy = no license.

I would also recommend that you follow to the letter all of your doctor's advice (Rx, sleep, avoiding triggers, if any, etc.) The brain is not like a thigh muscle or your stomach, bad results can occur distant in time from when you made the mistake (skipped Rx dosage or a night of sleep), so you can't as easily make mistakes and "get away with it". Also it makes it harder for the doctor to judge your situation if you are inconsistent in following his/her advice.
posted by forthright at 6:59 PM on November 19, 2009

forthright: "As to the danger to you and others, that is a very serious concern, but it is also true that there are many people with cardiac, blood pressure, Rx, diabetic or other exposures for passing out behind the wheel as well. Epilepsy is not unique."

What is unique about epilepsy, and concerning for those wishing to be licenced to operate heavy machinery at great speeds on public highways, is that a single "unprovoked", non-febrile seizure carries with it a significant but minority probability of another seizure within a year. Another seizure within that time frame immediately raises the probability of recurrence significantly, whatever the personal perceptions of the epileptic. Each additional seizure within a 3-year time frame further increases the probability of recurrence. The probabilities of recurrent syncope for those other disorders you mention are much less predictable or probable... given that to be so probable as to cause syncope, the would-be driver would be severely incapacitated and slipping in and out of altered mental status and, one hopes, capable of deciding not to drive *that* day or to pull over. Which is why they are not regulated or reportable the same way as epilepsy - they are chronic, visible, and obvious, while many seizures can happen without warning.

Based on the MESS studies, for the OP with 3+ seizures and a evidence of long-term neurological compromise placing them into the "high-risk" group, the probability of another seizure is 46% with immediate treatment with carbamazipine or valproate, 67% with 'deferred' treatment. Other longitudinal studies have demonstrated that a decline in the probability of recurrence correlates with the length of seizure-free period (either on or off chemical control), and that non-seizure periods of greater than 3-5 years are often a basis to declare complete remission. That's why highway licencing authorities all over the world place such a premium on the length of the seizure-free period, and that's why the a good legal and ethical process for the OP to do would be to follow the instructions of a neurologist specialised in managing epilepsy and to trial chemical management (something conspicuously absent from the OP's account).
posted by meehawl at 8:09 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Others above have given solid medical and legal reasons why it's a good idea to be honest and follow the regulations, even if the consequences are hard for you professionally. I wanted to share a story.

One of my best friends was a juror in this murder trial. The driver was trying to stay employed, and made some very bad decisions (including some, it seems from reports, motivated by his personal sense that he would be fine). He wasn't planning to kill two people, but he did. Please don't be that guy.
posted by range at 11:21 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

@meehawl, thanks for the correction to my non-professional understanding...I did not intend to belittle the seriousness of the situation, and facts are always preferable to opinion. My apologies.
posted by forthright at 6:28 PM on November 20, 2009

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